Presence Learning

Interview with Bob Buckendorf, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Author of Autism: A Guide for Educators, Clinicians, and Parents

April 20, 2009

Linda Schreiber:Good morning Bob. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed about your work and your book on Autism: A Guide for Educators, Clinicians, and Parents. Bob, let's take a minute to tell our readers about your interesting background and what led you to this area of specialty.Bob:Sure. I've
Linda Schreiber:Good morning Bob. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed about your work and your book on Autism: A Guide for Educators, Clinicians, and Parents. Bob, let's take a minute to tell our readers about your interesting background and what led you to this area of specialty.

Bob:Sure. I've been a speech-language pathologist for 34 years. I graduated from Idaho State University in 1975 and soon moved to Oregon. I worked in the schools in Oregon for two years, but eventually decided to go into private practice.

For those first few years in private practice, I worked with adults and children in my office and in private schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and a home health agency. I was in private practice for 20 years. Gradually, my practice became more and more pediatric and I found I was working with children five days a week.

Also, I earned a PhD at Wichita State University working with Dr. Barbara Hodson and finished that in 1997. When I realized my interests were changing, I sold my practice in 1999 and went to Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), where I primarily worked on evaluation teams assessing a variety of children, teaching students, and also engaging in some research projects.

Meanwhile my son, Brandon, had gone into speech pathology and, while in graduate school at Wichita State, married a speech-language pathologist, Tracy, who was one year ahead of him in the program. In 2006, I left the university and went back into private practice with my son and his wife. Our focus is on providing pediatric speech-language pathology services. In our office, we see a variety of childrenkids with speech intelligibility issues, fluency problems, language disordersa whole range of issues. Personally, I have specialized in kids on the autism spectrum for a number of years.

Linda:In 2008, shortly after you opened your private practice, you published this book, which is a guide for educating students with autism. What were your reasons for writing the book?

Bob:In 2004, when I was still at the university, a group of my colleagues at OHSU and I co-sponsored a day-long seminar on autism for a large group of educators and clinicians in the Portland area. We had, as part of that presenting group, two developmental pediatricians, a psychologist, other speech-language pathologists, educators, faculty from Portland State University, disability specialists, and administrators from the Oregon Department of Education. The conference focused on autism: what it is, how to diagnose it, how to differentiate autism from other similar diagnoses, bio-medical treatments, disability services, and the range of interventions available for children with autism.

At the end of that seminar, a number of clinicians asked for the information in printed form because they thought it would be useful to them. So this book is an outgrowth of that conference. In addition, I added other authors to round out the book.

Linda:The mix of authors brings multiple perspectives to the book.

Bob:Yes, I think so. For instance, there are three chapters on intervention strategies for children with autism. I authored one of those chaptersthe chapter on child-directed interventionswhere I explain approaches such as Responsive Teaching, and Floortime, and others.

One of the other chapters was authored by a clinical psychologist, who is a board-certified behavior analyst. She wrote about typical behavioral interventions and compared and contrasted them. Then Anna Dvortcsak, a speech-language pathologist, wrote a chapter that compared and contrasted behavioral and child-directed interventions and offered some suggestions on how to combine those techniques. I found this chapter very helpful in resolving some of the tensions between those somewhat disparate treatments.

We tried to include information that would help readers understand autism and then look objectively at the wide range of interventions available for children with that diagnosis.

Linda:You have a chapter written from the perspective of a medical professional.

Bob:Yes. In fact, we have chapters written by two developmental pediatricians. Dr. John Liedel wrote a chapter that defines autism, gives the history of the disorder, and describes the medical diagnosis.

Dr. Bob Nickel wrote a chapter on complementary and alternative medicine. This is a very important and interesting chapter because once parents receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for their child&#59 they can be overwhelmed with the biomedical interventions that are available. In fact, the information most requested from the conference in 2004 was: How do I get information about these biomedical interventions? Dr. Nickel addresses many of those questions and discusses medical resources available to parents and the pros and cons of some of the biomedical interventions.

When I was at the university, we saw many children each week to establish a diagnosis and kept in contact with some of those families. We found that once families had the diagnosis, they searched the Internet and read about all of the treatments that people were using to help their own children with autism. We found that families became quickly overwhelmed, especially with the biomedical treatments. For instance, many families assumed that herbal remedies were harmless, dose was irrelevant, and herbal supplements could not do any harm. Dr. Nickel includes a chart that very clearly shows that herbal medicines are very powerful and families need to be aware of that. This chapter is a very, very important contribution.

Click Here to View Larger Version of Table (PDF)

Linda: That's an example of information not typically covered in coursework for speech-language pathologists. Offering these varying perspectives as you have done is unique to your book.

Bob:Yes, I think so. We also included a chapter on audiological assessment in autism. It was written by audiologists at the university here who are very much experts in assessing these hard-to-test kids. Their expertise is invaluable and they describe the strategies they use and the various kinds of tests they use with children who are difficult to assess. I asked a speech-language pathology colleague, Tamra Hass, to author a chapter on interventions in the school. That chapter illustrates and defines many of the school supports provided to children with autism.

Linda:The book includes invaluable comparisons of educational techniques and organizes those techniques by the model upon which they are based.

Bob:Yes, That is true. However, one of the things that has occurred to me since we've put this book together is that as clinicians, we tend to do whatever works with the kids that we're seeing. We draw our techniques from the whole breadth of interventions. Sometimes we prompt productions&#59 sometimes we provide a model and have kids imitate us. We may imitate what the child is doing. We often try to provide a context so children need to communicate by putting toys and edibles out of the child's reach so they have to use a word or gesture to tell us what they want. We use toys and playfully interact with children so children enjoy interacting with us. We use the technique of waiting and joining children in their play and interests. We use many different interventions so that rarely are we using techniques from just one model.

We pull strategies from the broad range of interventions depending on the child's needs. So it isn't that I am a behaviorist or I use only child-directed interventions. We all use the whole broad range of interventions. We should do that unapologetically because our job is to help children communicate and we use a lot of different techniques for that.

Linda:Readers will find the list of techniques helpful to refer to when one technique isn't working for the child. Bob, who do you target with this book? Who might find this information useful?

Bob:That's a good question because we tried to make this a readable book. I have many books on autism on my bookshelves that are excellentvery thorough yet very detailed and technical. But it's not something that a parent, or a grandparent, or a teacher, who's interested in autism, might read.

There are also lots of other kinds of books on autism that are more autobiographical or describe a family's experience. And again, those are interesting books but perhaps more anecdotal.

So what we tried to do was to target an audience of people who perhaps have a beginning understanding of autismpeople such as parents or family members of a child with autism, educators and special educators, and other school personnel. We also wanted to target practicing clinicians, especially clinicians who are beginning their work with children on the spectrum, who were looking for more ideas on treatment options.

We tried to write so that a person could read one of the chapters in 35-40 minutes and get a good understanding of a certain topic such as the definition of autism, or differential diagnosis, or to find some expertise on the kinds of things the school might be doing with a child. We wanted the reader to have the basics of what he or she needed to understand the autism diagnosis and also to have some beginning knowledge to be able to hold conversations with the people treating their child.

Linda:What do you hope readers will take away from reading the book?

Bob:I hope parents will use the book to understand their children better. I hope that people in our field will use it as a resource, not only for themselves as clinicians but to share with others who have an interest in this topic. We wanted readers to understand the medical diagnosis a little more clearly, to understand educational interventions, and to perhaps appreciate what an audiologist has to do to evaluate a child with a disability.

My hope for the book is that clinicians will direct families to the book so that families can understand their child, appreciate their child's disability, and have some ideas on how to intervene and work with their own child.

I think if this book made autism more understandable to family members, clinicians, and educators, I would feel very, very satisfied.

Linda:Bob, your book is available from Super Duper Publications and readers can get more information at their website:

Thanks for chatting with me today. I think the book will achieve what you hope for it.