Monarch’s visual language immersion teaching Model combines concept-driven language instruction, visual supports, technology and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Developed through an ongoing partnership with Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, it leverages the strong visual processing abilities of individuals with autism, and supports communication, comprehension, language development, social skills, behavior and sensory intervention, and academic achievement. The Model is concept-driven to ensure learning is generalized to multiple contexts including school, home and community. It is predicated on the systematic and individualized introduction of language concepts accompanied by visual supports, to help individuals with autism develop modes of communication. These modes – spoken, visual and/or written – assist in alleviating frustration, reducing maladaptive behavior, building confidence and enriching the individual’s quality of life.
The Monarch Model has six critical elements that are incorporated into daily life at Monarch Center for Autism. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles and strategies are embedded in each of the following six elements, thereby maximizing their effectiveness:
Natural Language Curriculum
Content Area Curriculum
The Monarch Model emphasizes the use of assessments to guide instruction. Each student’s visual language, communication, academic, sensory, behavior, and other developmental domains are assessed by a team of Monarch professionals including speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists, intervention specialists, behavior specialists, and licensed counselors. To ensure IEP and ISP goals and objectives are appropriate and socially significant, it is critical to assess a student’s current level of functioning in all areas.
2. Visual Supports
The Monarch Model maximizes the learning opportunity that visuals can provide by applying visual supports within a structured language system rather than using them as isolated icons. Customized visual supports are created and implemented for each individual around three primary constructs:
- Visual Instruction (adapting instruction so it is presented visually)
- Visual Expression (using visuals to facilitate expressive communication)
- Visual Organization (using visuals to organize activities and daily schedules)
Educational software, video modeling, mobile devices, and web-based tools, including VizZle™, are used liberally to supplement each student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Individual Service Plan (ISP). In addition, many individuals at Monarch use Augmentative Communication Devices, as well as Apple iPads, computers and SmartBoards, which facilitate interactive instruction. Technology is an integral and essential way to reinforce concepts by taking advantage of the attraction it holds for individuals on the autism spectrum. Technology-based instruction has been proven to promote motivation, attention, reinforcement, instruction, expression, and organization among individuals with autism.
4. Natural Language Curriculum
The Monarch Model embraces a natural language curriculum that serves as an extension and elaboration of state curricular standards. We recognize that the individual’s available language system, including available vocabulary and concepts, can dictate the extent to which s/he can successfully participate in learning. By maximizing access to language and providing continuous "teachable moments" in a natural environment, the potential for richer and more meaningful expression and understanding is made possible. Students are taught seven communicative functions, which include:
- Protesting and Refusal
- Organization and Transitions
- Social Pragmatics
5. Content Area Curriculum
As individuals on the autism spectrum become more competent in their understanding and use of language, they are better able to manage the demands of a comprehensive educational curriculum. To support this, the Monarch Model identified the key language concepts in the content area curriculum and made them a critical, foundational component of instruction. As a result, math, social studies, science, language arts, and reading instruction are more comprehensible and manageable, which enables students to more effectively meet their learning potential.
6. Outcomes Data
Individual and program progress are continually assessed and reported with a unique data collection system that measures performance through parameters of independence, accuracy, participation, and behaviors. The data is analyzed and used to adapt teaching strategies, individualized treatment plans, and crisis management plans, and to generate narrative reports and statistics that reflect the individual’s progress on IEP and ISP goals and objectives. This progress is shared with families through daily updates, staffings, quarterly progress reports and annual IEP/ISP meetings. Monarch staff welcomes and values families’ thoughts, ideas and concerns, and partners with families to build trust, promote continuity of learning and reinforce key strategies.