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Being a Neuro-Affirmative Speech and Language Therapist

child attending neuro-affirmative speech therapy

As a speech and language therapist, it is crucial to recognize the value of using identity-first language and acknowledge the existence of ableism in society. Individuals who are neurodivergent or disabled often prefer identity-first language, such as "autistic person" instead of "person with autism," as it acknowledges their identity and recognizes the societal impact of ableism. Here, we will explore the importance of adopting a neurodiversity-affirming and anti-ableist approach in speech and language therapy, specifically discussing the issues with PECS and ABA and the significance of robust AAC.

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) have been widely used in speech and language therapy, primarily with autistic individuals. However, both of these practices have been criticized for being ableist and potentially harmful to autistic individuals. PECS has been criticized for its reinforcement-based system, which fails to address the underlying communication needs of autistic individuals. ABA has been criticized for its behavior modification approach, which has been linked to trauma and does not consider the social, emotional, and sensory differences of autistic individuals.

In contrast, a pro-neurodiversity and anti-ableist approach to speech and language therapy focuses on empowering neurodivergent individuals to communicate in a way that works for them. This involves adopting a strengths-based approach and using robust AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) methods that incorporate the individual's sensory, motor, and communication preferences.

girl chatting to grandad

Robust AAC refers to using multiple modes of communication, including speech, gestures, visual supports, and technology, to facilitate communication. It involves tailoring AAC methods to the individual's specific needs and preferences, using their strengths and interests to develop effective communication strategies. A pro-neurodiversity and anti-ableist approach recognizes that communication is a fundamental human right and that all individuals have the right to communicate in a way that works for them.

Adopting a pro-neurodiversity and anti-ableist approach to speech and language therapy involves using identity-first language, acknowledging the impact of ableism in society, and recognizing the potential harm of practices like PECS and ABA. Instead, a strengths-based approach and robust AAC methods that incorporate the individual's preferences should be used. By doing so, speech and language therapists can empower neurodivergent individuals to communicate effectively and confidently, respecting their unique identities and communication needs.

Our resources to support Neuro-Affirmative Speech and Language Therapists

Neurodiversity-Affirming Social Learning Curriculum

Neurodiversity-Affirming Social Learning Curriculum

Our Neurodiversity-Affirming Social Learning Curriculum is designed to help with this. It teaches both neurodivergent and neurotypical children and teenagers social learning in a way that embraces neurodiversity and allows them to build confidence using their strengths and viewpoint of the world.

Communication passport

Communication passport

Communication passports can be edited and personalized for your child. They are great to give to a new school/teacher so that they can learn about how your child communicates, what their sensory preferences are, what makes them happy and sad, if they are on medication or need assistance with feeding/toileting etc.

Core Vocabulary Books for AAC Users

Core Vocabulary Books for AAC Users

Core vocabulary are words used most frequently and are flexible words used in lots of contexts.

These books support children with the core vocabulary word "Go" and "more" - for children/teenagers who have an AAC device or use low tech AAC.

Who are the Shamrock Squad?

Shamrock Squad is a community of additional needs families on a mission to make the outdoors accessible for all! Sometimes it’s just a nature trail, but other times the squad ventures on hikes. They host open walks with different support representatives joining them on the day.

Who founded it?

It is a social enterprise founded by Alina Barone from Limerick, a mother of three, and Roscommon-based Vika Gailitem, mum of two. They noticed that there was a lack supports and information available for helping children with additional needs and their families to access the outdoors.They provide find maps, information about their experiences of the routes, a sensory overload chart, difficulty badges as well as nature treasure hunt printouts. Video guides of the specific locations, dangers and detailed path are also available on their YouTube channel.

EU Green week walk at Lough Boora Discovery Park in Offaly

This walk was a partner event for the EU Commission Green Week, with a focus on litter picking and sustainability. We provided a workshop and games designed to explain sustainability and recycling in a way which is accessible and easy for children with additional needs to understand. CLICK HERE FOR OUR SOCIAL STORY ALL ABOUT KEEPING EARTH CLEAN!

Other groups who shared their conservation knowledge during the walk included:

Picker Pals World - providing the motivation and tools for children, teachers and families to create a better environment for our shared future.

Leave No Trace Ireland - provides research, education and outreach so every person who ventures outside can protect and enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

It was also attended by support representatives from:

Family Carers and Young Carers Ireland - their mission is to highlight the contribution of family carers to Irish society and to improve the lives of family carers throughout the country.

Hidden Disabilities Sunflower - supporting people living with non-visible disabilities in their communities by raising awareness, training businesses and sharing stories to help create a more inclusive, understanding society.


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