[THREAD] I want to tell you about Spelling to Communicate, a method for non-speaking autistic communication that I helped to bring to South Africa along with Nicola Sowah (a speech & language therapist) and Luli Carillo (mother of non-speaking autist Leonardo).
Spelling to Communicate (S2C) teaches individuals with motor and sensory differences the purposeful motor skills necessary to spell to communicate. Motor skills progress along an increasingly complex hierarchy from pointing to letters to typing independently on a keyboard.
The goal is to achieve synchrony between cognition and motor.
Motor practice and teaching centres around engaging cognitive lessons.
Presumption of competence is one of the key principles of this method.
Skilled and rigorously trained communication and regulation partners (CRPs) use a variety of verbal and gestural prompts to teach motor skills.
S2C was founded and developed by Elizabeth Vosseller, founder and director of Growing Kids Therapy Center (@GKTCommunicates) in Virginia, USA.
Some of the approaches used in S2C overlap with those used in other methods, while some are unique to S2C. The training and mentoring programme for CRPs is also unique, and nonspeaking mentors are involved in the advanced professional training.
Spelling to Communicate South Africa (S2C SA) is a registered non-profit company that aims to provide information and support to people across Southern Africa utilizing the S2C methodology. S2C SA supports communities, and the aim is to go beyond supporting individuals only.
S2C SA also hosts social and community events, as we believe in the power of friendship. Strong communities provide acceptance and opportunities for growth for our spellers and their families. S2C SA also conducts fund-raising for this cause.
S2C South Africa acts as a governing body that reports back to the S2C headquarters in the USA, and will act under the guidance of Elizabeth Vosseller. Some of the groundwork is still being done and the rules and regulations will evolve over time.
Why is such a governing body necessary? If something is not regulated, then as with any therapy, it can become vulnerable to maverick use and abuse.
Standards and rules are necessary in order to uphold the high quality of input that S2C provides to the non-, minimally- and unreliably-speaking population.
It is to ensure their well-being and the integrity of their messages.
It is to uphold the name of this method so that we can continue reaching more and more people across the globe.
We want to help people express their voices, and we do not want this method to be discredited in any way.
We also do not want any client to develop any resistance to this method due to incorrect administration by, for example, a professional who is insufficiently trained and not working under supervision.
The #CRPD (the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) has been ratified in South Africa. In terms of this, we need to take our directives from the wishes of disabled people.
It is in respect to disabled people and in respect of their rights that we need to have this governing body and need to be strict on the rigorous practice of S2C.
Professionals practicing in S2C in South Africa will need to be in good standing with S2C SA.
In order to maintain this, they need to act under supervision and check in 4 times a year for scheduled professional check-ins.
Furthermore, they need to show that they are sticking to the protocol, and that they are adhering to the rules and regulations as signed contractually at the introductory S2C course.
S2C SA will maintain a register of active professionals who are in good standing with S2C SA. To be referred to a therapist in your area, please feel free to contact S2C SA. s2csa.co.za/#contact
S2C welcomes scientific research and keeping of records with the purpose of scientific research. We encourage PhD students in Occupational Therapy or Speech & Language Therapy to consider studying the methods used in S2C by designing studies which include direct observation.
I am one of the founding members of S2C South Africa. I briefly held the role of board member, with the idea that I would vacate this position to make place for a non-speaker once a suitable person is ready to replace me.
My role in in this is that of a disability rights activist. I am autistic, but in terms of the #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs principle, I do not believe that I can adequately represent non-speaking apraxic autistic people. Only an actual non-speaking autistic person can do that.
Here's the S2C Web site, with most of the above information in context: s2csa.co.za
@threadreaderapp Please unroll this for the person who said they want to blog about this. I realise it has a few mistakes in it, but it's OK for a start.
PS Here are the words of one of the local spellers.
OK, this thread went a bit wobbly when I summonsed Thread Reader, so let me reconnect here...
Some of our local spellers contributed to #AutisticHealth2018 via video and a written message. Thanks to them other nonspeakers in the USA, we achieved a breakthrough in our relationship with Autism SA, our country's largest autism charity.
There are still many things in Autism SA which I believe could and should change, but knowing that Autism SA sees value in S2C is a great relief and paves the way for better recognition of nonspeakers' communication requirements in our country and in Africa as a whole.
With the permission of her organisation, Vicky Oettle (the National Education Officer at Autism SA) now works part-time with children as a trained S2C CRP, continuing to build her skills under the guidance of Nicola Sowah, and in regular contact with other professionals.
So, who can train to be a CRP? The short answer is 'anyone', but in reality how much training you need will depend on who you intend to work with.
For example, you can be trained to be a CRP for a specific nonspeaker so that they can attend school and interact in the classroom. However, this would not enable you to open a professional practice of any kind.

Similarly, a parent can train to work with a their child.
An ideal foundation for someone who wants to become a full-on S2C professional is a qualification as an Occupational Therapist or Speech & Language Therapist.
Not all nonspeaking autistic children need S2C. For example, the young autistic artist Paris Subraya had excellent fine motor skills from an early age. She was able to use picture card communication and hand signs before speech therapy helped her to start talking.
Paris does not need S2C.
Conversely, having some speech doesn't mean S2C is not for you. Many spellers can speak a few words or sentences, but these utterances tend to be either bland and inexpressive, or inaccurate, or even nonsensical.
I explain some of the problems here.
S2C helps people with these issues to develop PURPOSEFUL motor skills so that they can better express what they mean.
Many apraxic individuals will tell you to disregard what comes out of their mouths, because it's just random 'motor loops'. But with S2C, some learners are able to eventually use their training to hone speech too. (Speech is not a goal for all, though. S2C isn't oralist!)
My video titled Communication explains some of the concepts discussed in this thread. People familiar with other communication methods for apraxic autists will be familiar with most of this background. tania.co.za/4-focus-areas-…
The vast majority of autistic people who start with S2C can already read and spell, but very often their family, therapists and teachers realised this before, because as nonspeaking apraxic people, they haven't had a way to demonstrate their understanding.
S2C provides a way.
As I detailed in some of my earlier tweets, there's a strong human rights thrust to S2C. This means that S2C supporters, CRPs and spellers themselves will also lobby for the right of nonspeakers to choose methods which THEY say work well for them.
Spellers have supported nonspeakers who use other methods in the United for Communication Choice campaign. unitedforcommunicationchoice.org
People who know me on Facebook will recognise this logo, which I have frequently used as my profile pic, in support of this cause.
Besides supporting the @U4CommChoice campaign, you will also find many people within the S2C community showing support for @Communica1st, a newly formed civil rights organisation for people with communication disabilities.
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