I know that when Speech-Language Pathologists and Behavior Analysts collaborate well, these things happen:
- Children get many more learning opportunities.
- Speech and language goals are more individualized.
- Behavior Analysts better understand why they are teaching particular skills.
- SLP team members better understand how to teach particular skills.
- Parents are happy when team members are on the same page and their kids are talking.
Benefit #2: Speech and language goals are more individualized
When a child is enrolled in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program, there is an assessment process to define appropriate treatment goals. Typically you will see Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), an Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABLLS-R), and/or PEAK Relational Training System. Less frequently used is the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM). These assessments are also used as curriculum guides as therapy progresses.
In my experience, the assessments and curriculum guides listed above address a variety of skills such as, but not limited to, communication, language, cognition, etc., but minimally address speech skills. The problem with this is that speech is inherently involved in the majority of the skills outlined in these assessments and curriculums.
Speech and language skills are different and they coexist. Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) have extensive education and practical experience identifying and treating speech-language disorders both as they relate to each other and with consideration to anatomy and physiology. Therefore, in order for a child to receive a more individualized assessment and treatment of speech and language, both Behavior Analysts and SLPs need to be working as a team. NOT ONE PERSON CAN KNOW EVERYTHING. Yes, I’m yelling. 🙂
Last week, when I outlined Benefit #1 Children get many more learning opportunities (click this link to access this blog), we talked about Billy, the boy with a phonological disorder characterized by final consonant deletion. In this hypothetical (yet common) scenario, Billy had a comprehensive speech and language assessment with an SLP who was working with Billy separately from his ABA provider. She knew what to do to address his phonological disorder. Billy was making progress in speech, but he wasn’t getting enough learning opportunities.
At the same time, Billy was getting 25-40 hours a week of ABA manding (requesting), tacting (labeling), intraverbal-ing (a behavior term for SLP alphabet soup), etc. However, he didn’t put any sounds at the end of his words. This specific (and common) issue wouldn’t be assessed or addressed in any of the current behavioral assessments or curriculums listed above, seriously impacting essentially all of his communication. Not only that, any attempts to build on the expressive language he learns in ABA will crumble because he doesn’t have a solid foundation in speech skills.
This is another example of the way that collaboration between SLPs and Behavior Analysts could be life-changing for a child and his family. Seems worth it to make this happen. Don’t you think?
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