Speech is a significant challenge for many individuals on the autism spectrum, with approximately one-third of the autistic population being non-verbal. As a result, alternative methods of communication are extremely vital. Now, a Virginia-based therapy center is specializing in treating non-verbal individuals with autism with a unique approach that helps them learn to communicate through movement.
According to a report this month by Moms.com, the center uses a combination of speech language pathology, occupational therapy, and educational principles needed to communicate through spelling. Trained specialists, known as “communication partners,” teach children motor skills through a system of verbal cues and gestural prompts. As the children’s motor skills improve, they progress from spelling out words to communicating fully by typing on a keyboard.
The center was founded by Elizabeth Vosseller, who serves as its executive director. Vosseller, who also serves as acting Secretary for the Non-Speaking Community Consortium, believes that despite being unable to speak, non-verbal children with autism are still fully capable of comprehending conversations.
In 2013, Vosseller began using low and high-tech Augmentative and Alternative Communication to teach children the skills needed to implement her “spell-to-communicate” method. As noted by Moms.com’s report, not all educational institutions currently support this method, and Vosseller acknowledged that “it takes a while for someone to be interested in researching it."
Nevertheless, Vosseller believes her method will continue to grow in popularity, based on the success of movement therapy for other types of disabilities and conditions, including Down’s Syndrome. Although Vosseller’s clinic currently supports only one location outside of Washington, D.C., the center offers outreach opportunities, online resources, and special training opportunities. She and her team hope their approach will have a positive impact on the autism community providing individuals on the spectrum with a voice.