A new way of thinking about education.
The establishment of the TALK Institute formalized the tradition of inquiry, innovation and professional education that has been the essence of TALK, Inc. since its beginnings.
Even before the opening of the school, TALK, Inc. was effectively bringing out-of-the-box thinking to bear on the education of children with autism and severe language disorders. It was the first to demonstrate the Association Method to a large gathering of teachers, speech pathologists, and other northeastern professionals working in the field of autism. It was also the first to introduce the visionary, Soma Mukhopadhyay, and her Rapid Prompting Method to an east coast professional audience.
And most importantly, it was the first to establish a very different kind of classroom for children with autism and severe speech and language disorders: a classroom in which intensive therapeutics and education occur simultaneously - a classroom where even the most outwardly impaired child is presumed to be intellectually intact - and significantly, a classroom where students benefit from immediate access to innovation and where new ideas are developed and evaluated.
Originally conceived as a demonstration program, from its inception the school has incubated new ideas and participated in the training of special educators and occupational therapists. The fact that today the demonstration program has evolved into an Institute is a testament to its success.
The marriage of school and institute, although unusual, was implicit in the minds of TALK's founders - parents who were keenly aware that while ABA programs helped a few children, for most there was no effective programming and time was running out on the severely disabled children they loved.
The families who would eventually found TALK had aggressively sought out the new and promising. By the time they came together, they had collectively done decades of research and reached the same conclusions. It had become clear over time that there was a mistake in the conventional understanding of autism and that mistake meant that the methods widely in use were both deficient and too narrowly applied. TALK's parents began to fully understand that the programming that provided their best hope of significantly altering the paths of their kids lives didn't yet exist. Of course, that left no choice but to create it.
However, TALK also recognized that innovation without scientific substantiation and peer review is inadequate. Thus, today, the TALK Institute is taking part in formal research initiatives conducted by Drexel University, New York University, and Temple University. As a center for research TALK can participate fully in the scientific dialogue as the community seeks to establish best practices in education and therapeutics.
The first of what we expect to be many journal publications is entitled, "You can know me if you listen," by our own Rachel Shoener, OTR/L and a student at the TALK School, was published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy in September, 2008.