Most individuals on the autism spectrum have difficulty acquiring language in the typical fashion. However, observational and visual processing skills are often better preserved, enabling people on the spectrum to utilize these to improve the effectiveness of their communication. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder benefit from explicit language instruction, especially when paired with the systematic and structured use of visual supports.2, 3 Monarch School’s philosophy emphasizes that teaching is always concept rather than skill based to maximize the potential for carrying over what is learned and developed at school. The maladaptive behaviors demonstrated by individuals on the autism spectrum are often the result of an inability to effectively communicate their needs, wishes, feelings and ideas.4, 5 In other words, behavior has explicit meaning.
At Monarch School we capitalize on strong visual processing skills and residual spoken language ability to create a conceptual framework that supports communication growth and development. Better communication allows the individual with autism to express his/her needs within more conventional and socially acceptable behaviors. Accordingly, we have developed the Monarch Natural Language Curriculum (MNLC). It is a fully integrated, immersion language program, that takes place in a natural environment,6 and supports behavioral goals and objectives that are addressed in the classroom. The MNLC assists school personnel in maximizing the "teachable" moments that occur during the school day by supplying scripts that are inclusive of all strands of language. This approach provides multiple opportunities to practice language concepts during existing school routines and transitions. The student benefits from a predictable language encounter that enhances his classroom experience. The MNLC also ensures that all staff including occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, specialists and classroom teachers coordinate efforts to support language goals and objectives.