Registered Special Educator (A64010)

Speech and Language are two separate entities, even though more often than not, we tend to substitute one for the other. While Speech refers to the physical aspect, production of sounds etc, language involves the cognitive component (the syntax, grammar, ideas etc).

While we tend to associate Speech with Communication, speech alone, will not lead to communication. A lot of children on the Autism Spectrum, for example, may have speech, but they might not be able to communicate even their basic needs, through words that they know/ have in their repository. The primary focus, must be on developing Communication for the child. That can be done through various methods

—Hanen, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), Sign Language, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) such as the Avaz app, S2C (Spelling 2 Communicate), RPM (Rapid Prompting Method) etc.

In children with Autism, we also tend to see evidence of Speech Apraxia, where there is a disconnect between the physical production of speech and their cognitive capabilities. While they may have an intact grammatical structure of words, they might be unable to reproduce that via speech.

Today, I would like to briefly touch upon GLP (Gestalt Language Processing) and Autism and especially my journey with it, so far. I will write a more detailed piece on its various stages etc, in a later blog.

Language Acquisition is usually seen as a Bottom-Up approach: a child begins to pick up sounds, then moves on to babbling, then single words, phrases, sentences, storytelling etc. By kindergarten/preschool, the child usually reaches this stage. This is also called Analytic Processing.

But there is another approach called the Gestalt Language Processing, wherein the Language Processing is Top Down. The child picks up entire phrases and sentences and then learns to mitigate it by breaking the “script” /whole phrases to add other words/phrases, to finally be able to self-generate language (which might not be grammatically correct initially, but may later evolve to achieve grammatical fluency.

Gestalt Language Processing is often seen as “Delayed Echolalia” and it is seen in both neurotypical children, as well as individuals with Autism.
This approach basically believes that there is a “communication intent”. That everything that is spoken by a child is done with an intent. No utterance /speech is meaningless. Everything is spoken with a certain understanding and is an effort to communicate.
So, is Gestalt Language Processing, a new thing? It is not. The first studies on it, were conducted in the early 1980s, but it was widely believed that children used both Analytic and Gestalt Language Processing (GLP), to process language. One of the reasons, GLP has gained attention recently, according to a blog “The Informed SLP”, is the sudden spate of pieces written by Autistic advocates, against Behaviour Therapy (BT) and their belief that BT puts an emphasis on changing how individuals with Autism, communicate with others. For a long time, Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) chose to ignore “scripts” spoken by individuals with Autism, as they considered them to be “meaningless”.
It is for us to figure out what it might be that the child is trying to covey through their “scripts”. Some of them, may be quite obvious to us, some others might not be.

Meaningful Speech- (an entity based in the US) carries out online courses on Natural Language Acquisition for Gestalt Language Processors. They have courses for both Speech Therapists as well as Parents and Special Educators.

I will cite an example of Gestalt Language Processing given in one of their videos. A child, while paying with stickers, during a therapy session kept saying “Oh! The truck has a flat tyre”. On the basis of her previous interactions with the child, the therapist could join the dots and make the connection that what the child meant to say, was that the sticker was “stuck” and she was unable to take it out. The phrase “Oh! The truck has a flat tyre” was from a You Tube video that the child often watched, that showed a truck with a flat tyre, that was “stuck”.
So, while, on the surface, the phrase “Oh! The truck has a flat tyre” may seem “meaningless” and unrelated to the situation at hand, digging a little deeper revealed that the child had used that phrase in a meaningful manner and it was a communication with intent. So, the gestalt (the echolalic phrase), the child used was absolutely perfect, taken in context.

As a parent of an 11 yr old on the Autism Spectrum, who is also quite echolalic, I have realized that learning about Gestalt Language Processing, has been a significant game changer for me, especially in the manner I view his communication, now. Since reading and learning more about it, I have begun to look at all his communication via the lens of GLP and I have realized how much of his valuable communication, I was missing out on, before.

For example, Kabir was taught to express pain through the words “dukhu, dukhu”, “it is hurting”, and point to the throat/ body part that was causing pain. It took us a while to join the dots, but we realized that often when he was scolded, he would say “dukhu dukhu, it is hurting”/”throat is hurting”, when there was no visible distress in his throat. What he meant to say, while using this phrase, was that he was “feeling hurt”, that we scolded him. So he basically learned to generalize that phrase/script and began to use it, to communicate when his feelings were also being hurt ! In another incident, one day Kabir, banged his forehead on the wall. When I asked him why he did that, he said “Slow motion. Accident happened”. There is an episode of Thomas and Friends, where the train meets with an accident, and it says “I cant’t stop! I can’t stop!. Perhaps, what Kabir was trying to say was that, it was an accident, and he could not stop himself from banging his head on the wall.

I, now meticulously maintain a log of all his utterances, and more often than not, he seems to be using the scripts in the correct context. Once we begin to see the potential of echolalic phrases as a means of communication, it changes how we fundamentally view communication.

This was a very brief introduction to Gestalt Language Processing. I will do a more detailed piece on it, later.

For further information and reading, please refer to the following resources: (for courses on GLP)
Northern Speech Services (They have a three Module course on Natural Language Acquisition for Gestalt Language Processors.

It is almost similar to the course available on the website. And they have tons of other courses on Speech and Language)
Book: Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum: The Journey from Echolalia to Self-Generated Language by Marge Blanc, M.A., CCC-SLP, 2012 (This book is only available on the Northern Speech Services website).
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal. Since the above article talks about Top-Down and Bottom -Up processing, Kabir’s artwork featured in this blog uses the same approachin its creation. Medium used is-
Soft Oil Pastels on Watercolor and Paper-
Postcard Size


Austism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Kerry Magro: Autism can’t define me. I define autism.😊

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a set of developmental disabilities that affect a person’s ability to socialise and communicate. This neurodevelopmental disorder is sometimes diagnosed before the age of one year, but is usually not diagnosed until much later. Most children with autism are diagnosed after age 3, and some have been diagnosed as young as 18 months. Early intervention is the most effective step, so when children between 2 and 3 years of age show signs of autism, they should be evaluated by a professional.

Autism spectrum disorder symptoms vary from person to person and range in severity, so it is classified as a spectrum. Children with ASD communicate and interact differently from other children. They learn and think differently from others. Some have major challenges and need ongoing support in their daily lives, while others have high autonomous functioning. There is no cure for autism, but symptoms can improve with the right help of Professionals.

Autism symptoms in 2 to 3 year old children :
For some children, symptoms of autism become apparent in the first few months of life. Other children do not show symptoms until age 2. Mild symptoms are often difficult to detect and may be mistaken for a shy nature, or choleric.

We’re going to look at the most common symptoms of autism in children between the ages of 2 and 3.

1. Social skills
2. Does not respond to his name
3. Avoid eye contact
4. Prefers to play alone rather than with other children
5. Does not share with others even when asked to share
6. Does not understand what it means to turn, or turn, using toys
7. Not interested in socialising with other children or people
8. Dislikes or avoids physical contact
9. He’s not interested or doesn’t know how to make friends
10. Lacks facial expression or, conversely, makes inappropriate expressions
11. Not easily appeased or comforted
12. You have difficulty expressing your feelings or talking
13. Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings

Language and communication skills :

1. Compared to other children his age, he is delayed in speech and language skills
2. Repeat words and phrases over and over
3. Does not answer questions well, so communication can be complicated
4. Repeat what others say
5. Does not point at people or objects, or does not respond when pointed at
6. Do not use personal pronouns well, for example, say “you” instead of “I”.
7. Doesn’t gesture or use body language, or rarely does
8. Speak in a monotone or monotonous tone of voice
9. Does not understand role playing or simulation games
10. Does not understand jokes, teasing or sarcasm

Erratic behaviour

1. Makes repetitive movements, such as flapping, rotating, or waving their arms
2. Arrange their toys or other objects in an organized way
3. Get angry and frustrated at small changes in their daily routine
4. Have weird routines and get upset when not allowed to do them, like locking the door
5. There is a fixation for certain parts of the object such as wheels
6. Have obsessive interests
7. Has hyperactivity or short attention span

Autism in children aged 2 to 3 years: Other possible symptoms

1. is induced offensive self harm
2. Have persistent and severe tantrums
3. Have an irregular response to sound, smell, taste, sight or touch
4. Have irregular eating and sleeping habits
5. Lack of fear or more fear than usual
6. Having any one of these symptoms may be normal, but having several of them, especially with language delays, should raise some concerns for parents or caregivers.

Symptoms in boys and girls :

Symptoms of autism are usually the same in boys and girls. However, because autism is diagnosed much more often in boys than in girls, the classic symptoms are often described in a biassed manner. For example, a girl who does not play with trains, trucks, or dinosaurs may show other behaviours such as dressing or arranging dolls in a certain way.

High-functioning girls also have an easier time imitating social behaviour. Average social skills may be more innate in girls, making deficits less marked.

Author Sradhanjali Dasgupta

Consultant Psychologist, Speaker , Learning Developmental Coach, Teacher and trainer Miss. Sradhanjali Dasgupta has been extensively working in the field of Counselling and education for the past few years in several Clinics, Hospitals, NGOs and educational sectors. She also contributes her writings and blogs in various newspapers, magazines and e- magazines Her training and workshops are both for the corporate as well as for the educational sector and are geared up for learning and development,upgradation and capacity building. She have actively taken part in many debates.


The Autistic Burnout

A video blog by Heena Sahi on whats autistic burnout in your child is all about? Find out more..

Author Heena Sahi


Are you creating an entitled child ?

Are you creating an entitled child ?

We all have our own unique style of parenting. This can be influenced by our very own parents , our attachment style in our relationships , personality , personal choice , societal factors etc

Well no style or fashion is wrong but we do need to keep in our mind what could influence our child to become an entitled one

Now what is entitled child ?

Entitlement is a mental block in our mind that makes us believe that we deserve something even though we didn’t deserve it. So an entitled child would feel that their needs are important and rules don t apply to them. This could apply to both ND and NT child.

How you create an entitled child?

Look at the three examples below :

When you say
1. If you help mumma to clean up the cupboard , I will give you chocolate to eat – The child thinks if I help somebody with something they owe me

2. Your sister is upset and sad , Go and say sorry to her – The child thinks if I feel sad at any time , other people owe me an apology

3. You have to share your toys with others , give it to your friend – The child will think When I want some thing , people will have to give it to me

Now let us shift the focus

How can you correct entitlement ?

Look at the three examples now

When you say

1. I am so grateful you help me ! – the child now understands Helping people feels powerful and fulfilling
2. It looks like , she is feeling upset. Do you want to check on your sister ?- the child now understands I can be there for my siblings but I am not responsible for their feelings.

3. If you are not ready to share your toy , you can tell them – the child now understands others can share their things if they want to , but I am not entitled to them

Well some of you may agree , some may not with the above text on correcting entitlement.
You can take your call. I am not entitled to make you feel happy.

There other strategies that can help to end your child’s sense of entitlement

a) Set clear expectations and boundaries
b) Don’t get into a power struggle with the child
c) Explain the consequence to child ahead of time
d) Saying no to your child is must and needs practice
e) Remember parenting is not a contest
f) Use hypodermic affection with your child , this is give them credit when they so something good like handling a disappointment when a plan got cancelled
g) Help your child become self-sufficient keeping in mind how they would be a worker or a partner when they grow up

Remember as parent you want your child to be a responsible adult and we must not land up disliking the way our child behaves or acts.
We don’t want to create a narcissistic or sadistic personality out of our children.

Ending the sense of entitlement is really hard to do , but it will get comfortable over the time
The magic words are – “it just takes practice “

I hope you can connect with this blog and make sense of it and apply it.
Like I said earlier as well , I am not entitled for how you feel about this blog …haha

Thankyou for sparing time to read this

Creative efforts and sleepy soul – Heena Sahi

Creative representation for this blog is done by our supertalented CreativeSaathi associate Morpheus Nag


“What to say and what not to say to someone with autism”

“What to say and what not to say to someone with autism”

We live in a world where we often gain awareness about a subject or a topic only once we face it or someone related to us faces it. This is very much the case related to Autism and all information about it that exists.
In the society people are still not aware or affluent of what autism is and what can one do about it. Lot of awareness campaigns and drives are held so that we can gain acceptance , understanding and inclusion for individuals with Autism, but it is still a long and rocky road to go.
I am happy that we have made small success to enlighten many people about the neurodivergent world and the remarkable kings and queens that live in that world.

This blog is for parents , professionals , siblings and teachers who are connected and work with an autistic individual. When we live in the same roof with an autistic personality , we try to turn our world around them so that we can make them perform their maximum and to the fullest.
And no special needs parent would deny it.

But at times , unknowingly we utter certain sentences/statements that can be painful to a person or child with ASD.
Remember we might not intent to hurt or trigger them , but it just happens.
So I thought why not watch our words. This can help me and you to connect better and deeper with that special person in our lives.
…. lets read ahead

There are certain phrases or conversations that we might have done with a child , teenager or an adult with autism and you may have thought that you are imparting some empathy but it has actually had an adverse effect on that individual

So when you say “ You seem so normal , you don’t look Autistic !”
Well you might mean something else , but to a person with autism , he/ she might think – How does someone with Autism look? What physical characteristics make someone look like they have Autism? None.
Then there would be times , when you would have commented “I have social issues too. I must have Autism.”
Hmm , I think when we say this , you are surely acknowledging your lack of socialization or some sensory difficulties. But to compare yourself to someone with autism diagnosis can make them feel “that you are rude and lack understanding about Autism.”

–Another statement that many parents would agree that they have heard from grandparents of an autistic grandchild. “Does this child need medication to cure it ?”As a therapist this one breaks my heart and I am sure you might have felt exactly the same .Well I feel upset that people think that medication is always involved.
So my point of view is whatever you know about autism could be an incomplete information , the best guide and pool of information is to hear out people who live with it. Read their biographies, research articles, published books and data by them. This will make more sense and give you most valid and accurate details about the world of autism

So I have made my mind , what I am going to say to a person with autism when I meet them next time is
1.Can you explain what is autism to me ?
2.I am here if you want to talk about anything you feel ?
3.Do you want to come and eat lunch with us ?
4.Ohh that explains a lot about you … that why you like to jump so hard on the ground ?

When you quote such comments and interact in this way , then the individual feels you are connecting to their core and are ready to understand them more. If you say how a small child will understand and comprehend your statements, well child can read vibrations you carry in your word and children with autism are quick to estimate some of your body language you show. This is why they love some of their therapists more than the other or want Mumma’s time more than dad’s time or vice versa.
They are very good silent observers. God has given them some abilities that we surely lack.
This blog of mine is purely intended to help you to have a fruitful relationship through words with an autistic person and be their ally. I don’t mean to comment on anyone’s parenting style or way of communication. But surely by keeping certain things in our immediate memory we can change the equation with our little ones.

Sharing happiness and affirming positivity your way
Signing out – Author Heena Sahi

Creative representation for this blog is done by our supertalented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal.