by Sarah Larsen, Nonprofit Management Intern
The Pediatric Language Clinic (PLC) is an early-intervention program that provides specialized services to children ages birth-to-3 that have significant social, communication, and behavioral delays, and/or a diagnosis of ASD.
Because the PLC is an Early Intervention Resource Agency (EIRA) under the umbrella of Tennessee’s Early Intervention System (TEIS), services provided at the clinic come at no cost to families. PLC staff members work with TEIS and families to create an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) for each child who receives services from the clinic. Creation of an IFSP allows clinicians and caregivers to work together to determine appropriate developmental services and specific desired outcomes unique to each child’s needs. Family involvement is essential at the PLC, as parents assist in the development of their IFSP and then participate in daily sessions, learning and growing with their child.
Early intervention services are primarily center-based, with group therapy sessions held on weekdays at the PLC’s permanent residence on Mountcastle Street near the UT campus. However, home-based services and consultations are also conducted on an as-needed basis as determined by caregivers in collaboration with the IFSP team. The PLC administers services through a curriculum that uses the Social Communication/Emotional Regulation/Transactional Support (SCERTS) Model. In addition to SCERTS, PLC staff members are continuously trained in the most up-to-date professional information and research that includes (but is by no means limited to!) Picture Exchange System (PECS,) Discrete Trial Training (DTT,) Applied Behavioral Analyis (ABA,) and use of Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices.
While research studies and training methods carried out by the staff PLC may seem complex or extensive at first glance, a daily 1.5 hour session at the clinic follows a fairly simple general schedule: sensory/movement time, center time, snack time, circle time, and outside time in 10 – 30 minute increments. Whether reading a book in circle time, choosing between 2 snack choices in the kitchen, or shoveling rocks at the tactile table, children at the PLC are always spending their time at the clinic playing and learning alongside their parents.
The PLC functions alongside the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology as a site for clinical research and education of UT students. Parents at the PLC consent to participation in a variety of ongoing research studies that are carried out in the clinic. For example, Dr. Devin Casenhiser of the Language, Autism, and Sensory Processing Research Lab works in partnership with the PLC, collecting and interpreting raw data from audio or video recordings of therapy sessions.
Beyond functioning as a clinical site for local research studies, the PLC has also always served as a training site for UT students working on their Master’s Degree in Speech-language Pathology, according to Program Director Vickie Barnes. “Graduate students have three primary learning goals to achieve when working here at the PLC,” Vickie states. “First, the students will learn how to manage the environment to promote learning and manage behavior through the use of visual supports and sensory strategies. They also learn how to help children with ASD become intentional communicators through use of gestures, joint attention, and vocalizations and/or words. Finally, these students will work to teach and coach parents to help their children to become better communicators.”
Program Director of the PLC and ASK Professional Advisory Team Member Vickie Barnes will speak at ASK on Saturday, July 23rd at 10:00 A.M. as part of the Summer Saturday Seminar series. The topic is “Communication 101.”