At 1st Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey, our goal is to increase our students’ speech, language, cognitive and feeding skills. We aim to help them meet their highest potential by fostering independence and effective communication with others. We utilize a total communication approach (verbalizations, gestures, augmentative/alternative communication, sign language, etc.). We assess cognition, receptive/expressive language, oral motor skills and social skills to determine the most appropriate and functional means of communication for each student. To maximize effective verbal communication for our students diagnosed with apraxia or dysarthria, we utilize evidence-based practices, including applying the principles of motor learning to help create muscle memory for functional verbal speech. In addition, functional oral motor placement therapy is offered as well as the Kaufman Speech Praxis Treatment Approach. Each student’s specific learning style and skill level is considered, while engineering the environment, to allow for maximal success.
Our 1st Cerebral Palsy of New Jersey speech therapy staff is experienced and capable. We work diligently to create a highly effective learning environment to increase the students’ opportunities to initiate communication and build self-confidence. In addition to the use of assistive technology to meet IEP goals, we also provide staff and parent training opportunities to allow for maximal carryover of each student’s goals across environments. Our staff has extensive post-graduate training including PROMPT Certification, training in DIR/Floortime, and coursework in apraxia and dysphagia. Social cognitive and pragmatic language therapy (including Michelle Garcia Winner’s I-LAUGH Model) is also used to incorporate social stories and picture schedules to teach appropriate responses to social cues. Speech therapists also join in our Life Skills Groups to facilitate communication abilities within the context of their activities of daily living.
We treat students one-on-one as well as in group settings, depending on the young person’s needs. Both pull-out and push-in services are offered, depending on what will best facilitate communicative gains. The department utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, acting as a support service to families and the educational staff.
Eating is an essential element of our physical and mental well-being. Our feeding program is designed to help students develop a positive experience with food. Mealtime guides are created to train staff and parents in how to safely feed our students with dysphagia, including the incorporation of any diet modifications, positioning techniques and specialized feeding equipment. In addition, programs are offered to our students with behavioral feeding difficulties to help them maximize good nutrition.
Augmentative & Alternative Communication
Augmentative & Alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (in addition to verbal speech) that are used to convey thoughts, express need and wants, and share ideas. AAC can include gesture, sign language, picture books, communication boards and voice-output devices. Our speech therapists assess what methods will help increase communication, and we utilize a total communication approach when appropriate. No-tech strategies including gestures, verbal speech, sign language and eye-gaze are facilitated. Some of our students are able to utilize light to mid-tech devices including communication books/boards, voice-output communication aides (VOCAS) including Big Macks and Step-by-Steps, and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). We are also able to train our students to communicate via high tech devices, including but not limited to the Dynavox systems such as the Maestro; Prentke-Romich devices including the Springboard; the Tobii C-15, which is assessed via eye-gaze in addition to the iPad with Proloquo2go; and other language apps. Our philosophy is to find the method and equipment that works best for each individual.