Elissa R. Mandel, MS CCC-SLP Answers The Question, “How Do You Communicate With Your Loved One, When They Can’t Speak?”

Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental delays can significantly impede a child’s speech and language development in such a way that these abilities do not develop fully on their own or with traditional speech-language therapy, leaving the child without the ability to communicate. If you think the answer is, “You don’t,” you are incorrect. Elissa R. Mandel, MS CCC-SLP, Founder Of Speech Works By Elissa, has integrated a winning combination of behavioral and therapeutic activities to help families communicate with their loved ones.

“Many parents who come to me with questions, report that their children have attended traditional speech therapy for many weeks or years with limited to no progress in their child’s ability to verbally communicate. Many families are unaware of the treatment approaches available,” explains Mandel.  So, what can be done for the client who cannot learn to produce speech movements or process information correctly using the traditional speech therapy approach?

“Over the past 20 years, I’ve combined every successful therapy technique I’ve learned, and developed an integrated set of therapeutic activities for developing verbal speech and auditory processing skills. I’ve had great success at combining the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis with Oral Placement Therapy (OPT), Auditory (Informational) Processing activities, Learning Styles, American Sign Language, and various other approaches. I am blessed to be able to make a difference in a person’s life using this unique combination, which appears to tackle the root cause of the problem for each individual.”

Mandel uses an approach that was influenced from the research of Dr. Ivar Lovaas, who developed one of the most widely used therapies for children with autism. “For the past 8 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be working in coordination with Dr. Lovaas’ son, Erik Lovaas, from The Lovaas Center. The techniques we use have benefitted many of our clients, not limited to those diagnosed with autism. There are many children who have received intensive therapy that are even able to catch up to the functioning level of their peers.”

In the 1950’s, psychologist and renowned researcher, Dr. Ole Ivar Lovaas pioneered the application of behavior modification techniques applying them to children with autism. At that time most “experts” insisted that a commitment to an institution was the only viable treatment for such a condition, but Dr. Lovaas believed that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), could be effective with some of these children and suggested that autism is treatable with the use of ABA.

Supported by 40 years of research and her own success in the practice of ABA therapy, Mandel has found that this approach can have a startling and dramatic effect in the development of motor and verbal capabilities in children who once had little or no capability for speech.

In addition, Oral Placement Therapy (OPT, a new term coined by Sara Rosenfeld-Johnson of TalkTools Therapy) which is a type, of oral-motor therapy used by Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) to target specific movements needed for standard speech production through a combination of therapy techniques, is often used with her clients. This therapy also differs from traditional speech therapy in that the strategies continue to utilize auditory and visual stimuli while adding the tactile and proprioceptive sensory systems. This allows the client to feel the movements as well as hear and see them.

While Mandel treats patients with many different disorders, her specialty is working with individuals with difficulty in motor planning, oral motor placement for speech production, and/or auditory processing for language development using a behavioral approach. She explains that “the motor planning for speech production is a highly refined and specific series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw, palate, and muscles for speech breathing, that are necessary for intelligible speech. The act of speech begins with an intention to communicate.  Next, an idea forms, outlining what the speaker wants to say.  The words for the desired message are put in the correct order, using the correct grammar.  Each word contains a specific sequence of sounds and syllables that must be correctly ordered together.”

“All of this information is translated from an idea, and information about order of sounds and syllables, into a series of highly coordinated motor muscle movements. The brain must tell the muscles of these articulators the exact order and timing of movements so that the words in the message are properly pronounced. Finally, the muscles themselves must work properly with enough strength and muscle tone to perform the movements needed for speech.”

“Usually, once syllables and words are spoken repeatedly, the speech motor act becomes automatic and requires less effort.  The child doesn’t have to think about how to say the word or phrase. At this point, speech motor plans and programs are stored in the brain and can be quickly accessed and put together effortlessly when they are needed.”

Helping a child to develop the capability of speech needs to be individualized and typically there is no short-term, quick-fix, therapy available. Many of Mandel’s patients require many years of ongoing work using various techniques and strategies as they progress from the development of one physiological capability to another. During this process, Mandel spends time training parents, caregivers, and home instructors to systematically apply techniques at home and not be entirely dependent on a routine of frequent visits to her office. This makes the process more economical for families, offers an approach with a more rapid rate of progress in speech development, and reinforces the positive parent-child bonds between that are essential in this effort.

“My mission is to provide the highest quality services in identification, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with disorders, by integrating the most progressive and diverse techniques, and delivering them with respect, integrity, and compassion.”

Mandel describes her services “as being a lot like developing a physical fitness routine that is largely effective because of the constant reinforcement and presence of a trainer.” 

To learn more about Elissa Mandel and Speech Works by Elissa, LLC go to www.speechworksbyelissa.com.