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UT Austin’s Speech and Hearing Center Offers Free Training to Parents of Children with Autism

UT Austin’s Speech and Hearing Center offers free training through Project SKILLS to parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

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AUSTIN, Texas — Free training is available to Texans to enhance language and communication skills of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) through a continuing program at The University of Texas at Austin.

Made possible through a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the training enables parents and caregivers from across the state to participate in-person or through online trainings from the UT Speech and Hearing Center. The trainings teach intervention strategies to decrease behavioral issues and increase communication and language skills in children with ASD.

Called Project SKILLS — Skills and Knowledge of Intervention for Language Learning Success — the trainings consist of eight sessions that are free to parents and caregivers of children ages 12 months to 10 years old. Additionally, the program will provide iPads and internet access to parents and caregivers who do not have devices or access to the internet.

Now in its second year, Project SKILLS has provided training to more than 100 families during the 2016-17 academic year.

“We really want to reach more individuals needing services — including individuals in rural areas across Texas — who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access these therapies,” said Madhu Sundarrajan, co-director of SKILLS and assistant professor in the Moody College of Communication’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “The project is designed to target families who live in Texas, with a focus on individual training for both parents and children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.”

Children with autism can experience difficulty acquiring communication and language skills, which can impair social, communicative and academic success and lead to behavioral problems. Although early identification and treatment can dramatically improve behavioral and communication outcomes, many families lack access to treatments.

Interested individuals can contact utprojectskills@gmail.com or call 512-471-2014.

“Data analysis from the first year of Project SKILLS shows that children greatly benefitted from participating in Project SKILLS and notably improved their expressive language skills,” said Jesse Franco, co-director of the project and assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “Improved language skills can, in turn, have a great impact on improving children’s behavior and enable them to express themselves without frustration.”