Facilitating Early Communication Skills Great
Resource on Children with Autism
By John M. Williams
Readers should know these qualities about
Pamela Rollins: She is an excellent writer, she is a pioneer in supporting
teachers and speech language pathologists in developing language and social
communication-based preschool classrooms, and she is totally dedicated to
raising levels of communication between children with autism spectrum disorder
and their families, their peers and their friends.
Her book, Facilitating Early
Communication Skills: From Theory to Practice, clearly shows these
. This is a teaching book, a treasure
trove of information for teachers, speech-language pathologists and parents of
children with ASD. Rollins book is divided into five chapters
representing the theoretical and organizational framework of social pragmatic
intervention, including 12 instructional units, each focused on a particular
theme chosen to be developmentally appropriate and functional in the lives of
the children (i.e., bedtime, birthday party, restaurant).
Each chapter begins with a learner
objective. Chapter 1, Dimensions of Treatment, discusses seven
learner objectives. Some of them include defining autism spectrum disorders,
describing evidence-based practices, and explaining why the social pragmatic
approach meets many of the criteria set by the Division for Early Childhood and
the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
In the first chapter, Rollins defines ASD
as a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder that severely compromises the
development of social relatedness, reciprocity, social communication, joint
attention and learning.
Although there is no cure for ASD, early
identification and intervention make a significant difference in improving a
childs level of functioning, thereby ensuring better longterm
A key section of Chapter 2, Early
Social Communication Development, is this: A core tenet of the
developmental social pragmatic approach is that all children, including
children with ASD, develop social communication and language skills in similar
sequence. Because social communication is a core deficit area for children with
ASD, it is important for teachers and therapists who work with children on the
spectrum to be familiar with the developmental course of three interrelated
components of social communication: social cognition, communicative intentions
and the process of word learning. When considered together, these three
components give rise to three distinct levels of early communication
Three levels of children are discussed. A
Level 1 child does not communicate directly with others because he does not
have communicative intention. Intervention for a Level 2 child should structure
the environment to facilitate engagement in a joint cooperative activity. Level
3 children have a mutual understanding with their communicative partner. They
understand that they have shared goals and can interact together in a
Chapter 3, Key Program
Components, focuses on the primary elements that facilitate social
communication through the lenses of joint cooperative activities. After
completing the chapter, readers will be able to name two key components of
classroom-based developmental social- pragmatic intervention, list four
criteria for writing a goal, know how to choose the words to include in a
childs core functional vocabulary, define nonlinguistic comprehension
strategies and discuss why it is important to be aware of emotional regulation
when working with children with ASD.
Chapter 4, The Early Class Daily
Schedule, was developed as a preschool-based intervention program for
children on the autism spectrum ages 3-5. In this chapter, Rollins uses the
Early Class to show how the components discussed in Chapter 3 can be integrated
into a preschool class. Rollins writes that children with ASD are often
more emotionally regulated and available for learning when they know what to
expect. In the Early Class, there is a predictable sequence of events across
the entire day and activity schedules are followed within specific activities.
Transitions between activities are clearly marked through core vocabulary or by
pairing spoken language with picture symbols.
Some of the challenges issued in this
chapter are: What factors should be considered when designing a schedule of
activities? Why are transitions important? How would you rewrite a
childrens book to facilitate a childs comprehension and joint
attention? List two functional activities to increase the use of cross-context
communication between the home and school environments.
Chapter 5, Instructional
Units, is by far the longest chapter. Some of the information we learn in
this chapter are: each unit is a theme that with input from parents was
selected to be developmentally appropriate, functional and motivating for
family; each unit centers on a picture book that introduces a theme and new
vocabulary; the books and book boards for each unit are examples of how to
utilize commercially available picture books and rewrite them to meet the needs
of Level 2 and Level 3 children.
Also discussed are: How should weekly
themes be selected? What changes should be made to the classroom for each
weekly theme? Which activities during the classroom day change each week to
reflect the theme? For effectiveness, the book is loaded with hundreds of
pictures and many figures and tables.
If I had a child with ASD, I would buy
this book (the cost is $79.95) and give it to my childs school. The
activities listed in the book are practical, and I believe they can bear fruit.
I found the book to be a treasure trove of useful information. I learned a lot
The book is published by AAPC Publishing.
To learn more about the company, visit www.aapcpublishing.net.
John M. Williams specializes in writing about
disability issues. His website address is www.atechnews.com.