I didn’t know it at the time. But the book I was writing was going to contribute significantly to what we consider “state of the art” teaching strategies for autism.
Here’s a little story
I spoke at a conference recently where a woman came to talk with me during a break. She was in tears.
She told me that she heard me speak many years ago at a workshop in Texas. When she learned about visual strategies from me, she said that it totally changed the way she did therapy to help the students that she worked with. Then she shared how using visual strategies produced such positive results for her students. She thanked me as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
I’m humbled. . . .
I’m grateful to know that we have discovered some tools that really help students on the autism spectrum to participate more successfully in their life opportunities.
This may sound a bit funny
I started to think about how there’s a whole generation of Speech Therapists and teachers that learned about using visual strategies in their college training or in their early working years. The information was presented to them as “best educational practices.” They don’t even know about the years of struggle educators had trying to teach students on the autism spectrum before using visual supports began to emerge.
My education was “typical”
My university education prepared me to be an “articulation therapist.” I also learned to do “speech and language therapy.” With that background, at my first job, I had a caseload of 102 students. One hundred and one of them had articulation problems and one little boy stuttered.
After that beginning in the special education world, I eventually ended up with a position in a program full of students with autism. It didn’t take long for me to discover that articulation therapy wasn’t very meaningful for them.
My educational background prepared me to do a lot of things, but it did not prepare me for those students in the autism program.
Many people struggle
Over the years I have talked with thousands of teachers, therapists and parents who have shared stories of their struggles to figure out autism. I understand. I struggled, too.
I’m a “survivor”
That’s my nature. In fact, it’s a fairly common personality trait of those who focus on helping individuals with special learning needs. When faced with a problem, I roll up my sleeves and dig in.
I learned and learned
There were parts of two programs that I learned about in that time frame that influenced my work. One was PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). That program stressed using pictures to teach students early communication skills such as initiating making a request.
The second program was TEACCH from North Carolina. The TEACCH system focused on using pictures for schedules, organizing tasks and providing structured teaching.
These programs have evolved over time, but the key concept that captured my attention was the use of pictures. (I wonder if that was influenced by the fact that I am a visual learner and my hobby was photography.)
I could tell you lots of stories
But something about this visual strategy concept stuck in my heart. Over time it has grown and morphed and matured. It never goes away. I guess that’s why some people call me “the queen of visual strategies.”
In the beginning
When Visual Strategies for Improving Communication first came out, it was reviewed by several people.
Barry M. Prizant, author of the new book, Uniquely Human, wrote:
“Visual Strategies for Improving Communication is an essential resource. It is unique in its clarity, practicality and creativity. As a researcher and clinician who has focused on understanding the unique learning and communication styles of students with autism, I enthusiastically recommend this book to professionals and parents at every opportunity. Through this volume, Linda Hodgdon has made a significant difference for children and their families.”
Carol Gray, Creator of Social Stories™ and author of The New Social Story™ Book wrote:
“What I love about Linda’s work is its durability over time. She has the ability to clarify and support communication with individuals with ASD, while at the same time making information clear and meaningful for those implementing her strategies. I envy her friendly and easy-to-read writing style, and admire her continuing contribution to the lives of individuals with ASD and those who work on their behalf. I refer to Linda’s books frequently for new ideas, insights, and inspiration . . . and this one-like the others before it-is a welcome addition to my library!
This review was in the ASHA Leader:
“. . . an excellent resource . . . it has been exactly what we needed . . . the specific examples assisted us to develop some very creative systems that have been highly effective for many of our students. The information and specifics can be used by a beginner or a more experienced service provider . . . This is a resource that should be on every Speech-Language Pathologist’s shelf.”
At conferences, people tell me their copies of the book are dog-eared, ripped & torn, marked with lots of sticky notes or have disappeared because of borrowing and lending. Yes, they are well used.
Visual Strategies for Improving Communication is frequently used as a university text in SLP programs and for education classes.
I think Carol Gray could see into the future when she commented on its’ durability over time.