Training School Speech-Language Pathologists to Assess and Manage Communication Skills in Children with Autism
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are lifelong neurodevelopmental disorders that significantly affect verbal and nonverbal communication and social and emotional interactions, as well as educational performance. Current data support that 1 out of 88 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder. As fiscal constraints increase, more school systems assume the responsibility of providing services to children with multiple disabilities and complex communicative disabilities, such as ASD. These responsibilities have been falling onto inadequately prepared school staff, including school speech-language pathologists (SLPs). There is a vital need to build capacity of school-based SLPs who are knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced as effective collaborators in the public schools to improve achievement and outcomes of students with ASD.
The DOE project entitled, Training School Speech-Language Pathologists to Assess and Manage Communication Skills in Children with Autism, offered a total of 10 fellowships during the 2011-2012 academic year to fund a cohort of full-time SLP graduate students accepted into the Speech Language Pathology graduate program. The project made it financially possible for a cohort of masters fellows to complete the masters program in SLP with specialty training in the area of Autism Spectrum Disorders. To date, a co-hort of 25 master’s students have been funded at the commencement of this grant in 2008. All graduate students funded under this grant engaged in additional coursework to gain expertise in ASD. In addition to their typical master’s graduate-level course-work, grant funded students completed two electives, the ASD course and one course in Special Education or Education, and a one 1 credit monthly seminar over the two year period of the masters’ degree program. Students gained clinical experiences working with children with ASD in the Department’s on campus clinic, the Center for Speech Language and Hearing, as well as at off-campus settings during their typical practicum assignments. Masters level fellows funded under this grant graduated in the two-year period along with their other peers earning a master's degree (MA) in Speech-Language Pathology, with additional training in ASD.