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Willing Hearts to present new autism treatment training to locals Tuesday

Willing Hearts Circle of the King’s Daughters and Sons will shine some light on a new approach for teaching children unable to communicate verbally or with who have decreased verbal skills.

The Language Acquisition Through Motor Planning — or LAMP — training program will be held at the King’s Daughters Medical Center Education Annex in the Robby Sauls Building Tuesday from 8:30 a.m-3 p.m., with a lunch break at 11:30 a.m. Attendees must register by calling 1-800-848-8008. The program is free and also qualifies as a continuing education unit from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Alternative communication methods are important for children with autism when 60 percent are unable to communicate verbally, and many others have decreased verbal skills.

LAMP Words for Life utilizes icons representing words for communication and is available both for dedicated AAC devices and as an app for Apple iPads. The app retails for $300.

Carole Bass, a speech and language pathologist, said the main advantage the program has over its predecessors is that the symbols do not move, allowing its users to learn their location through muscle memory in a way that is similar to the way touch-typists memorize the locations of keys on a keyboard.

“We do this automatically, without really thinking about it,” Bass said. “The same is true of communication devices that utilize LAMP WFL.”

According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children were diagnosed with autism annually in 2010 and 2012, up significantly from the 1 in 150 diagnosed in 2000. And the Center for AAC and Autism reports that 28,000 children are born each year who will be diagnosed with autism and remain functionally non-verbal.

Bass didn’t have data on autism in Lincoln County, but said the national trend holds true locally as well. Numbers are on the rise.

“In the past, most people didn’t know anyone who had been affected by autism,” she said. “That has changed markedly in recent years.”

The goal of the new approach is to address issues patients have with motor planning and sensory processing which may prevent communication, allowing those who are non-verbal to communicate independently, but the Center for AAC and Autism cautioned that it is not a cure.

“Learning a language takes many years for the neurologically typical individual,” the organization said. “LAMP WFL is a method for providing an individual with a language system that can be processed from first words to fluent communication.”

Willing Hearts Autism committee chairman Renee Hutson said the meeting is an opportunity for both parents and professionals to learn about LAMP WFL. Professionals will receive training for utilizing the therapy, and will be given the opportunity to receive a continuing education unit from the American Speech-Language-Hearing association — which is important for local SLPs.

“SLPs must successfully complete many hours of continuing education annually in order to maintain both state and national certification,” Bass said.

Teachers can also use the certificate as part of their continuing education requirements.

The meeting will focus on demonstrating the device and providing training and information. No devices will be sold at the meeting.