1.10 A Cross-Disciplinary Model of Communication Coaching for College Students with ASD
The University of Rhode Island
Pamela Rohland, M.A., Director, Disability Services for Students
Amy L. Weiss, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Communicative Disorders and ASHA Fellow
The University of Rhode Island
Eligible students with Autism-Spectrum-Disorder (ASD) at the University of Rhode Island, receive support toward college success through an interactive, cross-disciplinary partnership between Disability Services for Students (DSS) and Department of Communicative Disorders (CMD). Collaboratively planned activities include weekly sessions of disability counseling and support, communication therapy, peer-communication-coaching, and interaction with upper-class student mentors with ASD.
Today’s Learning Objectives:
Participants will gain resources to help adapt the model of collaboration between Disability Services and the Communicative Disorders Program to support the success and retention of college students with ASD at other higher education institutions.
Participants will view learning outcomes reported by all categories of student participants (i.e., student clients with ASD, graduate and undergraduate speech-language pathology students and upper-class student mentors with ASD).
Participants will consider a reciprocal view of inclusion in support services (i.e., developing a more welcoming campus climate for students with disability, while simultaneously teaching students specific skills that help them adapt to the campus community).
“…Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) [in college students] is where the individual is high functioning in a cognitive sense but without intervention is not likely to ‘solve the social puzzle.’ Thus, the person diagnosed with AS often has difficulty making friends easily, succeeding in typical classroom learning environments, etc. Attending college may present a significant set of challenges for the student with AS.” (Kaufman, N. & Lord Larson, V. (2005). Asperger Syndrome: Strategies for solving the social puzzle. Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications.)
Possible Aspects of ASD Supporting College Success
Possible Aspects of ASD not supporting academic success
Social thinking, social communication
Need for own space
Executive functioning deficits
Higher order planning
Overly literal in interpreting rules
Difficulty dealing with complex input
Making rapid decisions in new environments
Recent neurological findings:
Emerging view of ASD as disorder of global processing
Attention deficit concerns
Executive functioning, rapid decision-making
Difficulty in social contexts
Now seen as possibly secondary deficit
Social information complex, changeable, requires multi-modal processing
Problem is not one system but connection between/among systems (Minshew & Williams, 2007).
From young adults with ASD:
“I guess you might say I have many autistic moments where I say exactly what’s on my mind. Humor is hard for me to understand when you take things literally. It’s so difficult when you see the world as it is but you don’t really feel a part of it (Arthur, p. 80).”
“My communication skills also depend on how many people are present. If there is not too much sensory chaos, I am much better at decoding social behavior than when I find myself in a noisy group of people in a small space. When there are more than two people present my appreciation of all the possible cues to interpretation quickly deteriorates (Darius, p. 23).”
Reading printed language (decoding representation of speech sounds for meaning)
Reading use of language (decoding nonverbal cues, gestures, tone of voice, irony, etc for meaning)
Divisions of Language:
FORM (the code)
USE (in context)
The following PPT image of five circles overlapping in complex intersections around a central core, reflects the interconnectedness of all linguistic divisions:
WHY COMMUNICATION COACHING?
Support the Transition to College.
Enhance college retention and recruitment.
Teach the communication PRAGMATIC skills needed for academic success.
Teach organization and executive function skills needed for academic success.
Students require multi-disciplinary supports to succeed.
Reciprocal view of inclusion principles – it is a “two-way street.”
RECIPROCAL VIEW OF INCLUSION
The environment adapts to the individual with universal design and accommodations.
Disability as cultural diversity, civil rights, and equal opportunity.
College students with ASD become more adept at navigating the college environment.
Students are capable of learning new skills even in areas of difficulty such as pragmatic language rules.
Speech-Language Pathologists are uniquely qualified to teach these skills.
Communication is essential for academic success.
History Of The Program’s Development: URI’s “Changing the Culture” training grants (1999-2006; Rohland, Roush & Erickson) from the US Department of Education Postsecondary Education Demonstration Projects.
Created Partnerships with faculty, administrators and the URI Instructional Development Program (IDP).
Information and awareness dispel many stereotypes, thus creating a more welcoming and accepting climate for people with disabilities
Disability Resource Mentors still work together to change the culture of Rhode Island Higher Education toward a model of support, inclusion and civil rights for students with disabilities.
Training partnership with Weiss, Rohland, and IDP developed training seminars to support faculty and administrators in their ability to teach students with ASD.
Discussed communication difficulties that may be experienced by students with ASD,
Focused on the pragmatic competencies necessary for effective conversation and other social interactions (i.e., non-verbal communication that is nevertheless rule-governed such as gestures, intonation, irony, eye-contact, connotation, sarcasm, turn taking in conversations, etc.)
Supervising Faculty in CMD – recruits and supervises graduate clinicians and peer coaches; consult with Disability Services regarding client students.
Director Disability Services for Students – with DSS team, recruit new students to participate in the communication-coaching program.
Communication Coaches: M.S. Students of the CMD pre-professional training program provide explicit teaching of non-verbal communication cues, executive function skills, and conversation protocols.
Peer Coaches: B.S. student majors in the undergraduate CMD program provide guided practice with goals and objectives established by the communication coaches (e.g., non-verbal communication, and assistance navigating a complex university environment).
Peer Mentor (Advanced Student with AS): Previous client of the Communication Coaching Project who is comfortable and capable to lead or facilitate weekly group discussions of the clients with ASD.
DSS Advisors: Professional Disability Services staff provides academic and accommodation one-on-one support reflecting the communication goals of student clients.
DSS identifies and recruits eligible students with ASD.
CMD faculty recruit qualified M.S. level communication coaches and B.S. level peer coaches.
DSS Director and the CMD Graduate Program Director collaborate in a credit-bearing course to train and mentor the peer coaches (weekly meeting).
Therapy/Coaching Sessions are collaboratively supervised and observed by the program staff.
CMD Graduate Director supervises communication-coaching therapy according to the guidelines of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Participants learn verbal and non-verbal, social- pragmatic communication skills.
Participants learn executive functioning/ organizational skills needed for college success.
Peer Coaches, required to observe their assigned client’s Communication Coaching sessions, develop coordinated one-on-one Peer Coaching activities providing social practice and carryover in the community.
Participants are provided with opportunities to practice social independence skills on campus.
Participants are provided with opportunities to practice successful organization strategies for planning and completing academic work.
DSS advisors meet regularly with student clients .
Meeting frequency is determined case by case between student and advisor.
DSS Advisors support the communication coaching goals and participate in the clinical team of coaches.
DSS and CMD personnel work interactively and collaboratively to identify specific unique social-communication and academic needs of each client. Therapy and coaching are designed and adapted accordingly.
Connect new skills to the academic environment.
DSS Director recruits successful former client with ASD to mentor/interact with current Communication Coaching clients.
Receive ADAAA accommodations, adjustments, and support from DSS as required each semester.
Participate weekly in specific communication skill-building instruction and support with a Communication Coach (graduate-student clinician).
Practice weekly one-on-one or group communication and organization skills with a peer coach – undergraduate student.
Participate weekly in a group discussion/social group facilitate by a peer mentor (advanced student client).
Sample Activities and Tools:
Acronyms guide practice:
GATED: greet, ask, think extend/elaborate, don’t distract; Identify distracting communication behaviors and teach alternatives.
SODAS: S = Situation, O = Options, D = Disadvantages, A = Advantages, S = Solutions (National Network on Youth Transition for Behavioral Health. Social Problem Solving)
I learned that the impairments run much deeper and affect executive functions, making organization and planning of day-to-day activities very difficult.
Being a Communication Coach …taught me to be more understanding of those on the Autism Spectrum…comments …..are the result of impaired perspective-taking and difficulty gauging what their conversational partner know/needs to know to guide ….content in the conversation.
The Communication Coaching program can help students in the field of Communicative Disorders become advocates for those [with ASD] by respecting their needs, understanding their social deficits and providing them with a skill set that can help them participate in socially appropriate ways within their activities of daily living.
I learned it is important to counsel the student …to always assure them that you are doing what you can to help them communicate successfully and be prepared for daily tasks.
Peer Coaches’ self reported learning outcomes:
I have gained insight about myself and about my clients.
I have learned a lot about the Asperger’s Disorder in general.
This is the first time I have ever been involved in working with clients with this disorder and I enjoy helping them, I learned a lot from them
No person with Asperger’s is the same…. [As other persons with Asperger’s}
I have learned how to plan activities to benefit both of my clients.
Being a peer coach is not always an easy task.
…. Clients with Asperger’s struggle with a lot more than just communicating with others, but also organization, directions, and perspective taking.
Measured improvement of communication skills or strategies. (From progress reports)
Goal: Improve Executive Function/Planning needed for academic and social activities.
reading body language or nonverbal cues. (rg, bc,)
eye contact (rg, sc)
Barriers: What needs to Improve?
Earlier, more consistent identification of and buy-in by students who will benefit from a combination of weekly communication coaching and academic counseling
Scheduling is currently a great challenge.
Appropriation of personnel is expensive.
Families are unused to paying for these students’ support services; URI has no mechanism to collect additional tuition charge.
Data collection is needed to demonstrate efficacy for purposes of grant proposals, recruitment and revenue generation.
Communication Coaching has enhanced individual success and communication skill development for its student clients
Communication Coaching provides practitioners-in-training with a broad view of the individuality and strengths of college students with ASD;
We continue to be a resource to the university community to help faculty and administrators develop greater understanding of university students with ASD.
We CAN hold students to college standards of academic performance and student conduct.
We CAN teach students to understand and meet those standards.
Thank you to our colleagues:
Jacqui Tisdale, Counselor and Graduate Assistant, Disability Services for Students
Rosemary Lavigne, Coordinator, Disability Services for Students
Paige Ramsdell, Coordinator, Disability Services for Students
Billy Connors, Clinic Coordinator, URI Speech and Hearing Center
URI M.S. students who have served as ”Communication Coaches”
URI B.S. students who have served as “Peer Coaches”
Mary Ellen Vigeant
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