If you ask Speech and Language Specialist Christina Lorfing about her job, the first thing she mentions is the children and adults who inspire her.
One of her students in the High School 4 classroom came to Eden Autism with no communication system in place. He was only able to say “no” to things using basic signs. Christina and the Speech team got him set up with Proloquo2Go on an iPad, and taught him how to utilize it to express himself. Now, he’s socializing with other people, asking for high fives, answering a variety of questions, and even making requests.
“We’ve seen a huge behavior decrease with the increase in communication,” she said. “Ultimately, that’s what my job is about, to replace behaviors with successful and functional communication. That’s one of the most rewarding experiences for me in my professional career.”
Christina splits her time at Eden Autism between the School and Adult Services, supporting a variety of needs during every stage of an individual’s life. “We make sure to keep things functional and understand what the communication needs are throughout the lifespan to prioritize things that are the most helpful to help them be functioning members of society.”
The Speech team focuses on all aspects of communication, from words to body language. “Everyone is so different. Everyone has their own sense of humor and has so much to say,” Christina said. “Even if they appear to be limited verbally, their pragmatic language [body language, facial expressions, etc.] can show how compassionate and funny they can be.”
Working with individuals with autism has interested Christina since she was in high school. “I used to babysit a boy with autism and I’d be there for his at-home services with speech,” she said. “That really inspired me to want to work with children with autism and support their communication needs. I always knew this was the route I wanted to go and coming to Eden and seeing the challenges and how to work through them has been so rewarding.”
The most rewarding parts of the job for Christina is helping individuals with autism use language in functional situations and assisting students with feeding challenges. “Seeing the things we work so hard on during our sessions be carried over into lunch time or in the classroom — to watch some of the students do things independently, like eating new food items or getting someone’s attention and using spontaneous communication — it’s amazing,” she said.
Working together with the other therapists and the clinical team, Christina is proud to make a difference in the lives of children and adults with autism. “It does take a team to really support these individuals and to make sure the things we teach are carried over outside of the classroom,” she said. “We help them learn skills that become a part of who they are.”