We Are Here to Help
Autism Spectrum Disorders
A large segment of our caseload is children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The numbers of individuals diagnosed with ASD is increasing, and we take the responsibility of helping these people develop to their full potential very seriously. Because individuals with ASD are diverse and complex, we employ a team-based approach to our services.
Our team operates from a processing-based perspective. Essentially, this means that we work to understand the differences in how individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder process information, how their brains work differently. When we understand the underlying issues related to sensory processing, auditory and language processing, emotional processing, and motor planning, we can teach/treat/consult most effectively. Our treatment approach includes:
- Establishing a calm, regulated sensory system as a foundation for all other learning. Stressed systems cannot learn, so an under-aroused or over-aroused individual is not in his/her optimal state for learning.
- Developing attention span to complete activities with other people and independently, then expanding to strengthen other executive function skills.
- Supporting individuals to work through anxiety and learn new skills.
- Pairing movement and motor planning therapy with speech and language work to build those neural connections
- Improving the efficiency of language organization and retrieval
- Collaborating with experts in other fields, such as IBI consultants, teachers, parents, psychologists and other individuals.
We work with families in the stages before and during the process of receiving a diagnosis, to help them understand the new terminology they are faced with and what it can mean for their child. And we continue to support those families through the preschool and school-age years and teen and young adulthood years.
This diverse group of people consists largely of school-aged children who come to us due to needs in an array of areas:
- Difficulty attending and focusing
- Difficulty listening and following instructions
- Difficulty learning to read or reading for meaning
- Poor handwriting
- Difficulty copying from the board or taking notes
- Difficulty expressing themselves orally or in writing
- Academic difficulties even though they know the material
- Social problems with teachers and peers
- Frustration with school and learning
When learning disabilities are suspected, we often help with the assessment process by administering a variety of tests and collaborating closely with educators and psychologists. Many times we assist in writing recommendations for computer equipment at school. We also provide therapy to remediate weaker areas and to learn compensatory strategies.
We are pleased to have an excellent working relationship with our local Down Syndrome Association and coordinate group programs throughout the year for clients with Down Syndrome of varying ages. In addition, we regularly provide assessments, therapy and consultation for individuals and their families. This genetic condition results in unique learning challenges and we strive to provide services that will best serve individuals for long-term success.
- Gross motor skills related to low muscle tone, hyper-mobile joints and greater incidence of weight control concerns
- Fine motor delays
- Language delays and oral-motor weakness tied to facial differences
- Targeting areas of strength and making activities fun and functional to increase motivation
- Tying literacy and numeracy to meaningful daily activities
- Incorporating music and social
As our society places a greater emphasis on early intervention, we have been seeing a greater number of children below the age of two years. We know that parents receive advice from many sources regarding how to raise their children and whether or not to be concerned about their development. (“Your uncle Fred didn’t talk until he was 4 and he turned out just fine.” “They’ll walk when they’re ready.” “Boys don’t like to do colouring and crafts like girls do.” “Her older sister is talking for her.” Etc.) Our team firmly believes in parents trusting their “gut instinct” and having a consultation with a professional if they have any concerns at all. If their child is developing with no issues, we will provide some information about child development and put the parents’ minds at ease. Or, if something seems amiss, we can help parents to problem-solve next steps and support them in whatever way is most appropriate, ranging from periodic re-checks, to referrals to other agencies, or to more regular therapy sessions.
We feel very strongly about creating services and supports that can adapt for individuals through all the stages of their lives. The children that we see regularly grow into teenagers and then adults, some of whom continue to live with their parents, some of whom live independently and some who live in supported living environments. While we typically do not provide as much regular therapy for these individuals (although we do if it is appropriate), there are many other areas that we focus on:
- Providing support for caregivers, employers, and other agencies
- Offering life skills and social skills training
- Supporting staff to facilitate groups
- Community networking
- Fabricating resources including visual aids, sensory processing tools
- Consulting regarding strategies to increase functional participation in meaningful activities
Our staff has extensive experience working collaboratively with school personnel, in a number of ways:
- Assessing for underlying issues with language, sensory processing, visual perceptual and motor skills that impact classroom learning
- Observing in the classroom and school yard to evaluate dynamics impacting learning and social development
- Providing strategies to promote in-class success
- Providing input to Individual Education Plans (IEP`s)
- Designing alternative programming to support students who cannot follow the regular curriculum
- Fabricating resources for teachers, including customized visual schedules, communication displays, theme-based activities
- Providing workshops and in-services for educators on a wide range of topics
“Joyce Hignett and her staff are knowledgeable and thorough. They know when to push and when to let up. My child gets the full undivided attention of his therapist when he is at Speak Freely and I find he learns more in his one hour session than I ever expected. My child has been with Speak Freely Therapy Services since opening.”
“There are no ulterior motives at Speak Freely Therapy Services. These are dedicated professionals who give 100% of themselves with the best interest of your child in mind. Highly expert, friendly, compassionate, with a high degree of integrity: I trust them. Our son has been a regular there for over a year and the gains are amazing. He has grown so much with their help. We’ve used both the OT and speech services and highly, highly recommend.”
– JJ, parent and teacher
“As an educational consultant who has worked with Joyce Hignett over a period of years, I have become aware of her dedication and determination to provide the most comprehensive and effective strategies possible in order to improve the speech/communication issues of her clients. I have been particularly impressed with her very direct, practical approach and that she understands the importance of providing a functional, meaningful context for communication as an integral part of her service.”
– LN, teacher and independent consultant