Clients come to us with binders of data and years of care from a variety of specialists.  They feel defeated and frustrated and have a healthy mistrust of experts who left them to believe that their skills reached a plateau or something within them obstructed further progress.  We have come to believe that the trusted experts’ skills reached a plateau.

Some fields are yet to be standardized which allows great variance in training, competence and public accountability.    Professionals have completed years of study in accredited programs, spent years in supervised training to attain a foundation of competence in their field, and then passed strenuous licensure examinations assuring standard of care and confidentiality.  They are dedicated to maintaining professional integrity and accountable to themselves, their accreditation boards, and the public.   Their training, credentials and reputations are in the public record.  

  So, which clothes is the emperor wearing and how do you know?


“One in three adults with autism lack professional experience, worrying experts…” (CBS News Staff, 2012)

This article includes an observation by a policy specialist about the need for increased job training for people on the Autism Spectrum. This comment concerns us because it seems to assume that offering more of the same training is the solution. Do they also think that repeating what you say in a louder voice is a sure way for a non-English speaker to understand you?  Training does not assure skills are acquired, applied, transferred and adapted beyond the original training setting.

The general assumption of the word” learning” is that someone has gained knowledge, skills and behaviors. Learning is what happens when information is received, absorbed and integrated for future use. Learning is an internal process requiring physical/mental health, social/emotional support and developed communication abilities. It is also a personal choice heavily influenced by many factors (for instance tired, hungry, cold, homeless, neurologically different, alone).

The general assumption of the word teaching (training) is the delivery of knowledge and skills. Teaching is what happens when facts are organized, tailored and presented. Teaching is an external process independent from the learner.

Let’s start by improving training for the decision makers about the services needed and funding necessary for tomorrow’s workforce. Let’s educate curriculum developers to know how much time and attention is required to learn particularly when you are confronted by mother nature with different neurology instead of only focusing on the time necessary to teach and test. Effective job training requires knowledge and skills to build successful relationships not just technical skills. It starts from the moment a person enters into the world and grows with every interaction. Take for example, a typically developing two year old that will intuitively modify their speech when talking to a person with a hearing loss. Children with neurological differences often are shuttled to specialists and live in relatively protected environments because people don’t always understand them, judge them and critique their parents giving them little time to experience the world like their neurotypical peers. Society needs training on how to include children with neurological differences and support these brave families.

Job training in a school setting starts at PPCD (Pre-School Programs for Children with Disabilities) not in high school. Job training is not another class to take or something in lieu of college. Consider how much more effective training programs could be if the scope of the needs of people with neurological differences were truly understood. Consider building emotional regulation, personal accountability, awareness of self and others into daily living skills curriculum. Consider building conversation and purposeful, mindful communication into daily living skills curriculum. Consider what could be accomplished if we lifted the veil of paperwork and allowed students to self-actualize guided by teachers with time to connect with each of them.

There are several of you out there who will say that it is being done. Our question is if it is being done why do so many students with neurological differences receive training that does not allow them sustainable employment?

Stuart picks his son John up from college. As they are walking to the car, Stuart asks his son about his day and if he is prepared for tomorrow’s history exam. John tells his father that he studied. Stuart, cautiously optimistic says “Great Buddy! How about I quiz you after dinner?” John stops in the middle of the parking lot and forcefully says “I told you I studied!” Stuart firmly replies, “Son, this is not the place. We will study after dinner.” John, clearly upset, yells “I told you I studied!” as he strides past his father to the car.

John and Stuart shared an interaction but failed to communicate. From our professional perspectives, intentions derail for different reasons. As we said in our last post, each professional takes in the situation they see and you describe; absorbs it; and then formulates it into a working hypothesis.  The working hypothesis directs how each one repairs communication breakdowns.  Here is a snapshot  into how the See-Absorb-Formulate process goes:

Speech Language :  Stuart communicates effectively using both verbal and non-verbal language. John relies on spoken language and is challenged by the unspoken. John understood  his dad’s question “Did you study?’ and answered it. Stuart knew by John’s answer that his son only understood and responded to whether or not  he studied for tomorrow’s exam.  John answered his father and was unclear why Stuart continued talking about it.

Reason for Speech Language Interventions:  Considering John’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome,  it is likely that his language and thinking skills do not reflect his intellectual capability.  Therefore, further exploration is needed to know what John’s concept of “to study” is and what he did to study for the test.  Therapeutic intervention builds John’s ability to use language in academic and social settings.

Mental Health : Stuart asked a question as John’s father.  Stuart’s  behavior suggested John’s answer was insufficient so he asked a follow-up question.  John’s behavior indicated he was not going to answer the same question again.

Reason for Mental Health Interventions:   College is a time of transition for both father and son.  The communication breakdown reflects how  their relationship would benefit from another way to connect.   The task for a 20-year-old is to practice becoming independent and intra-dependent .  The task for a parent of a 20-year-old is becoming a consultant to support their child’s transition to adulthood.  A Special Needs diagnosis adds layers of complexities to the tasks.  Therapeutic intervention facilitates John and Stuart’s understanding of each other which in turn builds communication and strengthens their relationship. 

Considering John’s age, diagnosis, social/emotional and academic history, it is important to learn more about his problem solving skills and how he interprets and responds to social/emotional cues.  Equally important to explore is Stuart and his role as John’s father. What are Stuart’s  wishes, hopes and dreams for John? What informs his parenting and parenting style? What about Stuart’s mother? How does she impact this story? How does Asperger’s Syndrome live with each one individually and as a family?

Therapeutic intervention is more than talking with an understanding friend or getting extra help.   Clinical knowledge and experience goes beyond bridging strengths to build skills with a trained and profound understanding of the all the puzzle pieces that are known and unknown.

Our professions focus on the reasons and repairs in communication breakdowns.  Speech Language Pathologists are trained in the physical aspects while Mental Health Professionals are trained in the social and emotional dynamics of Communication. 

For Speech Language Pathologists the messages can only be sent and received if all physical systems are working as they should be.  Communication is the ability to understand, create and produce language.    Language has two components :  verbal (vocabulary, grammar, and where the words are in a sentence) and non-verbal (facial expressions, body postures, and  the sounds of your voice).    The speaker sends a message assuming the listener will receive it.  The listener may or may not receive the same message.  For example, an excited high school senior tells her neighbor about her college acceptance.   The elderly neighbor has a hearing loss and saw the excitement on her face but didn’t hear all that she said.

For Mental Health professionals communication is about location and relationship. The speaker shares intention through words and behaviors expecting the listener to recognize, understand and respond.    However, the listener is a different person with another perspective.    Communication takes shape through several filters:  Who and where you are; how, what and why the message is relayed; and how you are related.   The high school senior  waits to share her excitement until her best friend is accepted to the same college.

Our professions focus on sending and receiving messages from separate reference points.    Whichever professional opinion you request, it is important to know the framework and distinctive understanding they bring to your situation.

    • Twice weekly gatherings for High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome
    • Social Language Training; Practice in the Community and Interactive Feedback
    • Facilitated by both a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed/Certified Speech Language Pathologist
    • Groups for Elementary, Middle School, High School, Young Adults, and Adults
    • Please call 713-984-7513 or email us at to receive an application.
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