As a parent, it can be hard to navigate the sea of information from professionals, family, friends and the internet. This is difficult at the best of times, let alone when we are faced with a virus which has shaken the world up in many ways, and may have resulted in significant changes for your family at home.
It is our hope that information published throughout this series supports you in finding ways to connect with your child and build on their social communication and emotional regulation skills during daily activities. We will be using a model called SCERTS to think about supports for your child’s communication level. Each week we will be covering a different topic and providing suggestions on strategies and supports based on your child’s SCERTS communication stage.
What is SCERTS?
SCERTS is a model for working with children with autism and related disabilities, and their families. It can be used for individuals with a wide range of abilities and ages across home, school and in the community.
The SCERTS model aims to target functional goals that are developmentally appropriate for the child and priorities for the family. SCERTS views parents as the expert in their child and facilitates parents, families, therapists and educators to work in partnership. It provides a framework for supporting children to become effective communicators and engaged learners.
The SCERTS model prioritises Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support. These terms may sound like a mouthful but are just names for skills and areas you are most likely already familiar with.
“SC” Social Communication – This refers to the way an individual develops relationships and uses spontaneous communication to take part in daily activities. For example, taking mum by the hand to ask for a hard to reach toy, asking Dad for help when frustrated, or taking part in a conversation with a friend.
“ER” Emotional Regulation – This refers to the way an individual tries to stay calm, cope with stressful situations and remain alert, to be available for learning and interacting. For example, playing with a favourite toy to relax, jumping around when excited, or asking for a break.
“TS” Transactional Support - This refers to the way we adapt what we do and how we set up the environment to support someone with autism’s communication and learning. For example, using simple language, giving choices, or using a visual schedule.
What is the evidence for SCERTS?
The SCERTS model was developed by Prizant, Wetherby, Rubin & Laurent (2003) and is based on evidence from a range of sources including research on child development and research addressing the core differences experienced by people with autism.
The SCERTS model is a framework to hang a range of other evidence-based approaches (e.g. Hanen, Social Stories, ESDM, PACT) to achieve a child’s goals. The SCERTS framework believes that the key areas of difficulty for people with autism are in Social Communication and Emotional Regulation.
Research has shown that developing these skills improves quality of life. SCERTS recognises that Transactional Supports help children with autism develop skills across environments with a range of people. As our children’s main communication partner, we can do this through interacting with our child and setting up their environment. If you are interested in the research into SCERTS, please refer to the SCERTS and Raising Children websites.
How can I start using SCERTS?
When starting with SCERTS it’s useful to think about your child’s abilities, strengths and interests. This will help you to identify your child’s current communication stage. Within the SCERTS model there are three communication stages:
Social Partner - communicates with gestures, behaviour and vocalisations (e.g. noises, sounds).
John is a Social Partner. John pulls his parents hands to show them what he is interested in. He enjoys making different sounds but isn’t yet using these to communicate with others. When he is upset, he soothes himself by flopping onto dad, and dad responds by giving him firm pressure and hugs.
Language Partner - communicates with single words, short phrases, symbols, pictures and signs.
Matilda is a Language Partner. Matilda is starting to use some words, pictures and signs to communicate her needs and wants. She has a vocabulary of about 50 words and is starting to combine them to make simple sentences like “want bubbles”.
Conversational Partner - communicates with more creative phrases and sentences.
Yusuf is a Conversational Partner. Yusuf can combine words to make a range of sentences and will often have conversations with others about his favourite topic, Minecraft.
What communication stage do you think your child is at? Please refer to the ‘Determining Communication Stage’ checklist here to help you figure out which communication stage your child is at.
Every week we will be posting ideas on a new topic based on these three different communication stages. By knowing what communication stage your child is currently at you will be able to focus on functional goals that are developmentally appropriate and achievable for your child.
Please get in contact with us if you have any requests for future blog posts! We want to make sure this is relevant for you.
Written by Speech Pathologists Aria May and Sally Grauaug