Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Pros and Cons of the Affect-Based Language Curriculum (ABLC)

The Affect Based Language Curriculum is a book and CD ROM combo that was developed by Greenspan and Lewis. Stanley Greenspan is a well known autism expert and developer of the DIR/Floortime treatment approach for autism and other developmental disorders. Coincidentally, I learned that he recently passed away; it saddens me when someone passes away that has contributed so much to the treatment of autism. Diane Lewis is a speech language pathologist. The curriculum was intended for parents, teachers or speech therapists of children with autism or other communication disorders.

I've now had a chance to read through the book, complete the checklists, and design a program for Owen. Creating a program is somewhat time consuming, but relatively painless. There are several skill checklists you have to go through and see what level your autistic child is at in the different areas associated with language such as imitation, back and forth interactions, receptive language and expressive language. Next, you have to decide which skills you want to start working on, and how many skills you will work on at a given time. When you are working on particular skill (for example waving goodbye) you are doing what they call systematic instruction.

There are various "foundation activities they suggest for the different skills that involve ways to get your child engaged with you before teaching a particular skill. It will be difficult to get your child to participate in the systematic instruction part if your child isn't first engaged in the activity and attending to you. After you are through with each of the systematic instruction skills, you are supposed to do "applied floortime" activities. These are play activities that focus on using several of the systematic instruction skills at once in a more non-instructive, play setting.

 After trying it out for a few months now, here are my Pros and Cons:

Pros: 
  • The program is very thorough and covers the entire spectrum of skills necessary to be an effective communicator and develop language. As you work your child through the skills in the 5 levels of the program you begin with very basic language skills in the areas of : 2 way interactions, imitation, receptive  language, and expressive language skills. You end with pragmatics and very advanced play and interactive skills every child needs to fully engage with their peers and environment.
  • You can easily individualize the program to your specific child's strengths and needs. The program has very thorough checklists that determine where your child is in each skill area. You can then choose specific skills to work on based on your individual autistic child's needs.
  • The program can be done by anyone. Although it will take some time to learn and adjust from a "play with your child" mode to "play to teach" mode, the program is designed for parents, teachers or speech therapists alike.
Cons:

  • The program could be considered overly complicated and takes a while to learn. The book itself is 380 pages long (many of which are the checklists and skill activities). If you are wanting something you can start immediately without putting in much start up effort, this book might not be for you. That being said, it isn't that bad and once you read the book and get comfortable with it, you'll realize it is giving you the power to provide intensive, at home, speech therapy to your child.
  • The activity examples used for systematic instruction of the skills are a bit too specific. I'm all for details, but some of the examples use very specific toys that could instead be described using more generic terms. For example, instead of telling you to use a "Dora" doll, they could describe how to do the activity with any generic doll you have laying around the house. However, I found it pretty easy to substitute toys and objects I had already for most of the activities instead of going out and buying all the props their examples use.
Overall, I think this is a really great program to use if you are looking for a very comprehensive, yet usable home speech therapy curriculum for your child with autism or other special language needs. However, you will need a fair amount of patience to both learn and stick with the program.

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