Examples of Interesting "Hooks" and Main Focuses

"Come Play With Me," Jan. 17, 2012, which described how to help pre-schoolers with autism develop social skills by training their normally developing peers as communication partners.  

Hook: Emily attends an inclusive preschool with typically developing children, has a severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and is minimally verbal. She can put two picture symbols together to request objects from adults and will imitate adult speech occasionally. All communication attempts are directed to adults, solely for the purpose of regulating their behavior. The teacher wants Emily to have more social opportunities and decides at center time to sit Emily at a table with two peers to do puzzles. Emily reacts by hitting the teacher, throwing puzzle pieces on the floor, and crying. She will not tolerate being in proximity to peers. The teacher is concerned that Emily is "not yet ready" to learn skills needed to engage in joint play with peers and fears for the peers' safety. After helping Emily finish the puzzle, the teacher lets Emily leave and go back to her favorite cushion to listen to music.

Focus: Social communication is reciprocal and involves give-and-take. Consider this scenario from the perspective of one of Emily's peers, Amy. Amy is sitting at the table doing a puzzle with another little girl. They are talking about the puzzle pieces and smile at each other as they race to finish. Amy looks up and sees Emily being coerced to sit in the chair next to her. Amy watches Emily as she hits the teacher and starts clearing the table of pieces. Amy is not happy about Emily's behavior and wonders why Emily acts that way when everyone else is having fun. She turns back to her friend and ignores Emily.

Social skill deficits are one of the fundamental features of autism. Brown and colleagues (2002) reviewed developmental and curriculum-based assessments that can be used to assess peer interaction skills of children with ASDs. Three subtests of the Batelle Developmental Inventory (BDI; Newborg, Stock, Wnek, Guidubaldi, & Svinicki, 1988) directly relate to young children's peer-related social competence. Two subscales of a curriculum-based assessment, the Assessment, Evaluation, Programming System (AEPS; Bricker et al., 2002) directly relate to children's peer interactions.

"Forge Your Own Path," Dec. 20, 2011, which outlined factors to consider when establishing a private practice.

Hook: One of the great perks of being a speech-language pathologist is flexibility in your work environment: schools, hospitals, home health care, outpatient clinics, or nursing home. For many, the possibility of working in a private practice beckons from the horizon—a distant idea that's terrifying, thrilling, and seemingly impossible to reach.

Focus: I spent several years as a stay-at-home mom before deciding to return to the field. I knew I needed maximum flexibility in both my caseload and schedule and decided going out on my own would best fit my needs. But what does going to work for yourself really mean, and where do you start? Consider these questions before you decide:

"From High-Tech to Biotech," June 7, 2011, which examined the use of stem cell and gene therapy to treat hearing loss.

Hook: "I can hear, but I can't understand" are seven words that are frustrating to both clients and clinicians. Poor speech discrimination is frustrating for new wearers of hearing aids because they likely have spent a lot of money for a device that amplifies sound but may not increase their ability to perceive speech, especially in the presence of background noise. For clinicians, this often-heard statement is frustrating because although we know that hearing aids are imperfect substitutes for normal hearing, we also know that most clients will benefit in terms of interpersonal communication and listening in quiet environments.

Focus: Although hearing aids (for those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss) and cochlear implants (for those who are profoundly deaf) produce undeniable benefits for millions of people, the effectiveness of these devices leaves room for improvement. Some limitations of these technologies are due to their use of amplification (in the case of hearing aids) or electrical stimulation (in the case of cochlear implants) to bypass the damaged regions of the cochlea. However, neither hearing aids nor cochlear implants restore the structural damage that leads to hearing loss.