Category Archives: Autism

Let’s Go Bowling: Supporting Communication at the Bowling Alley

It might seem odd that I’m writing a post about bowling on a beautiful, sunny spring day when most people are thinking about spending time outside, but it’s always good to think of activities we can do when the weather isn’t so great (in fact this holiday weekend, the forecast in northern NJ is all rain!).  Bowling to the rescue!  There is actually a great nationwide program for children to enjoy bowling all summer long — for free — called Kids Bowl Free.  Although adults don’t have the option to bowl completely free, there are package options where parents, grandparents, caregivers, etc. can bowl with their children at a significantly reduced cost.

Now that you know about the Kids Bowl Free program, I’m sure you’re wondering what on Earth bowling has to do with supporting communication. Am I right?  It’s not the first activity that comes to mind when you think of supporting communication; however, bowling is a social activity and any social activity is a great opportunity to encourage communication.  The best thing about bowling is that it can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, so any person, young or old, regardless of communication level or type of disability, can enjoy some time at the bowling alley and practice his/her skills.

At the bowling alley, we can support communication by:

  • Socializing with existing friends and making new ones
  • Practicing sharing and taking turns (e.g., It’s your turn.)
  • Talking about colors, shapes and sizes (e.g., red ball, round ball, big ball)
  • Learning about sequence (e.g., I go first, you go next, he goes last.)
  • Using exclamations (e.g., Strike! Good job!)
  • Talking about what’s happening (e.g., The pins fell down.  The ball rolled down the lane.)

That’s just a few ways you can work on communication skills at the bowling alley.  What indoor activities do you enjoy for practicing communication skills?


Introduction to Telepractice

Telepractice (AKA telemedicine, teletherapy, telehealth, telespeech, telerehabiliation, virtual speech therapy) is the delivery of health services via a telecommunications system. This service model is becoming increasingly more popular in the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology. Large factors that have driven the use of telepractice are reducing travel time for the client and/or professional and expanding the reach of services. Telepractice is becoming a more widely used and accepted method of providing speech-language pathology and audiology services. However, many families are skeptical that the services provided through a computer could be beneficial or equally as productive as those provided face-to-face. Despite family reservations, researchers (e.g., Gorgan-Johnson and colleagues) have found that children receiving virtual speech therapy do as well as those receiving services in person.

Benefits of Telepractice

  • Decreases the rate of cancelations or no shows
    • Sessions can still occur in bad weather or when the speech-language pathologist (SLP) or client are sick.
  • Allows underserved populations to receive evaluations and treatment
    • Individuals living in rural towns may struggle to find local in-person services for their needs. Furthermore, individuals from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds may struggle to find appropriate services in their area. By using telepractice, these clients are able to receive the services they deserve.
  • Increases family involvement in the sessions
    • Family members can have a more active involvement by assisting clients with the session activities.
  • Increases interest or attention with clients that are motivated by and/or more comfortable in front of computers
    • Clients may be more engaged during their sessions because they enjoy being on the computer. They may also feel more comfortable asking and answering questions and performing difficult tasks with the computer screen as a safety net.
  • Allows clients to connect with professionals who specialize in their disorder or disability and/or can provide services in their native language
    • Speech-language pathology is a broad field. Although all SLPs receive some degree of training in all aspects of speech, language, and swallowing disorders, most  specialize in certain areas over areas.  For example, some SLPs may specialize in working with children with autism while others may have extensive training in treating adults who have aphasia. In addition, the majority of SLPs are monolingual and/or do not have the training to provide appropriate services to a bilingual client.
  • Makes sharing information easier
    • Clients and SLPs can share their computer screens and upload files to enhance the therapy session.
  • Helps clients and families to remember and understand what occurred during the session
    • Virtual therapy sessions can be recorded (with permission) and used for later review. By recording the sessions, clients and family members can watch what occurred. Watching the recordings assists clients with practice and carryover of skills. Moreover, watching previously recorded sessions allows everyone to observe the progress that has occurred.

How can we help?

At Liberty Speech Associates LLC, we provide telepractice sessions for the following purposes: accent modification, counseling, speech-language evaluations and treatment, speech-language screenings, and collaboration with related professionals. For more information on our telepractice services, contact us today.


  1. Grogan-Johnson, S., Alvares, R., Rowan, L., & Creaghead, N. (2010). A pilot study comparing the effectiveness of speech language therapy provided by telemedicine with conventional on-site therapy. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 16(3), 134139.
  2. Grogan-Johnson, S., Gaebel, R., Taylor, J., Rowan, L. E., Alvares, R., & Schenk er, J. (2011). A pilot exploration of speech sound disorder intervention delivered by telehealth to school-age children. International Journal of Telerehabilitation, 3(1), 3141.
  3. Grogan-Johnson, S., Schmidt, A. M., Schenker, J., Alvares, R., Rowan, L. E., & Taylor, J. (2013). A comparison of speech sound intervention delivered by telepractice and side-by-side service delivery models. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 34(4), 210220.

Social Communication: Definition, Assessment & Treatment

As per request on a recent Instagram post looking for suggestions, today’s blog post will be about social communication and social communication disorder (SCD). Before explaining the disorder itself, it’s important to lay the framework of what is meant by “social communication” in general. According to Adams (2005), social communication is the combination of social interaction, social cognition, pragmatics, and receptive/expressive language.

Social interaction refers to one’s ability to acknowledge that other people are social beings (Adams, 2005). Per ASHA (n.d.), social interaction includes, but is not limited to, communication style, language use/code switching, social reasoning and competence, and conflict resolution.


Social cognition describes one’s ability to connect with and understand the emotions of oneself and others, as well as understand the nuances of language and make inferences from context cues (Adams, 2005).
Pragmatics is how we use language in social situations using unwritten rules based on the context. For example, a person may use language differently when speaking to a peer versus a parent (Adams, 2005). Pragmatic skills include, but are not limited to, maintaining the topic of conversation, initiating a conversation or interaction, making eye contact, repairing conversational breakdowns, and taking turns.
Receptive language is comprehension of language and expressive language is the expressive output of language. Language includes reading, writing, speaking, gesturing, and understanding. Components of receptive/expressive language are syntax (word order), morphology (word forms), and semantics (vocabulary), and phonology (speech sounds).
When an individual has a SCD, s/he can experience difficulties in any or all of the areas of social communication described above. SCDs can co-occur with other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, or traumatic brain injury, but may also stand alone. Social communication is heavily linked to culture, so an individual’s expected behavior will vary from person to person and community to community. If there are concerns with a person’s social communication skills, a speech-language pathologist can perform an in-depth evaluation to determine if any aspect of the person’s communication deviates from the norm of his/her particular society and/or culture. The evaluation would likely include interviews with caregivers and relevant others (e.g., teachers, employers), clinical observation of the client in a social situation, standardized assessment, and non-standardized analysis of all communication domains.
If it is determined that individual does have a SCD, speech therapy can be provided to assist the client in having more successful social interactions and relationships with caregivers, peers, colleagues, teachers, etc. Speech therapy sessions should be catered to individual client’s needs while taking research and best practices into account. The specific structure of a speech therapy session for SCDs would depend heavily on the client’s noted areas of breakdown. Speech therapy sessions could be provided one-on-one to teach specific social rules; however, it is important that speech therapy sessions also occur in group or social situations to ensure carryover of the skills learned. Social stories may be used to help the individual understand the difference between what s/he is doing versus what the social expectation or norm is.
Do you have specific questions or concerns about social communication or SCDs? Leave a comment below, so that it can be addressed.
Adams, C. (2005). Social communication intervention for school-age children: Rationale and description. Seminars in Speech and Language, 26(3), 181-188.
ASHA (n.d.). Social communication disorders in school-aged children. Retrieved from§ion=Overview.

Early Intervention 101

Thank you for visiting the Liberty Speech Associates LLC blog! Today I’m excited to write my first post. This post is about the New Jersey Early Intervention System (NJEIS). After presenting to families and teachers at a local daycare, it has come to my attention how much is unknown and misunderstood about the NJEIS. Therefore, I hope to shed some light on the basics of the program.

You might be asking yourself, “What is ‘Early Intervention’?” Early Intervention (EI) is a program that provides intervention to infants and toddlers. Guidelines vary state to state. In New Jersey, EI is for children from birth to the age of 3. Services address a child’s overall development in the areas of cognition, communication, self-help, social/emotional, gross motor, and fine motor.

If you have a child with a disability or that seems to be delayed, there are some important things you should know about the NJEIS.


If you contact the NJEIS (1-888-653-4463), you will share your concerns regarding your child’s development. Based on this information, member of a Targeted Evaluation Team will schedule an initial evaluation. These professionals will be in two separate disciplines For example, one may be a physical therapist while the other may be a speech-language pathologist. Ideally, one of the two professionals should be in the discipline that is your primary concern. That’s to say that if you’re concerned because your child is not yet speaking, one of the professionals should be a speech-language pathologist. On the day of the evaluation, the two professionals will use an instrument called the Batelle Developmental Inventory to assess your child.

Eligibility Criteria

In order for a child to qualify for EI services, he must be 33% delayed in one area of development or 25% delayed in two or more areas of development. Your child’s degree of delay will be based on his performance on the Batelle. If a child doesn’t qualify for EI, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t need support or isn’t delayed; it just means that he doesn’t meet the eligibility criteria for this program.


After the evaluation, a meeting will take place to create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for your child. Family members, the evaluators, and your service coordinator (case manager) will be present during the meeting to discuss the IFSP. When making the IFSP, you will discuss the type and frequency of services that your child will be receiving.


Therapy through the NJEIS is not free. The program is based on a “cost-share.” This means that your family may be responsible for a part or all of the cost of the EI services. The cost-share is dependent upon your household income. However, there is no cost-share for evaluations and meetings. These services are always free.