A Note From the Director

Greetings to someone who loves a child with autism!

A dozen years ago, if you told me that I would leave my family for weeks at a time, be mentored by Dr. Vincent Carbone, travel all over the country, visit Europe or Bermuda, go back to college to become a behavior analyst, start my own company, or relocate because of treatment strategies for children with autism, I would have said, “Are you kidding?”  

I was a successful speech-language pathologist, specializing in treatment of children with autism and loved my hometown and close-knit alternate textcommunity—but then things changed.  I learned about a different way of viewing treatment of children with autism that is often called “verbal behavior.”  This “verbal behavior” therapy had some of the same words that I had heard before like “applied behavior analysis” and “functional communication”, but it emphasized what I knew was important for the kids that I was treating everyday—primarily motivation and communication.  It was different from “Lovaas therapy” or any of the other techniques that I had been studying and using at the time.

Here is the simplest way I can explain how “verbal behavior” therapy is different, and how we implement it at The Center: 

First, the child’s motivation is the most important ingredient.  We have to set up situations around the house in natural settings so that children learn to love being with people and playing.  Motivation is the foundation; whenever we teach a new skill, we look at motivation again.  All of our teaching strategies are designed to keep kids motivated.

Second, we teach children to communicate, specifically, how to request the things that they have learned to enjoy.  We have also developed and currently use even more precise methods for teaching kids to speak and use sign language.  Communication is key!

Third, we carefully examine the reasons that children communicate, or their “language functions,” something that B.F. Skinner, a famous behaviorist, called “verbal operants.”  Understanding and teaching these functions is essential for a child with autism.  If a child can imitate a word like “bubble,” it doesn’t mean that he can use that same vocal word to ask for bubbles, label a bubble, point to a bubble when we say, “Where’s the bubble?” or answer a question like, “What’s something you blow?” or “Tell me something you can pop?”  Understanding the need to teach each of these language functions explains “generalization problems” or “inconsistency.”  More importantly, it provides a method and a hierarchy for teaching the functions of language systematically so children can use and respond to language more functionally.

These differences in teaching are monumental in helping children with autism learn.  I have seen firsthand the improvement in the life of a child with autism and his or her family as a result of this type of teaching.  I feel so strongly about the importance of these procedures that I have made it my mission to help other parents and professionals learn about these strategies.  I hope that you will find them as life changing as I have.      

Sincerely,

Tamara S. Kasper MS, CCC-SLP, BCBA
Director

About the Director

Tamara S. Kasper, MS, CCC-SLP, BCBA, is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist who has been treating children with challenging behavior since 1990, specializing in children with autism spectrum disorders since 1995.  Tamara’s lifelong commitment to children with autism spectrum disorders led her to pursue expertise in treatment methods within and outside the field of Speech-Language Pathology.  She received training in the methods of Nancy Kaufman and later partnered with Nancy to create The K&K Sign to Talk Materials and App, materials specifically designed for children with autism spectrum disorders who are struggling to speak.  She further pursued advanced training in Applied Behavior Analysis/Applied Verbal Behavior, and under the mentorship of renowned Behavior Analyst Dr. Vincent Carbone and his protégé, Tamara became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  She worked under the tutelage of Dr. Carbone for over five years, consulting to ABA teams, schools, and clinics, and proving workshops nationally and internationally.  This provided a unique experience to treat hundreds of children with autism and develop additional strategies to improve verbal vocal language, often in conjunction with teaching sign language.  As of late, her educational passions have also expanded to include methods for improving social communication skills in children with autism.  Additionally, she has developed unique programming that combines physical training with social communication and social skills therapy to provide greater opportunities for community integration for children with autism.


Tamara has worked tirelessly to promote greater options for children with autism and their families, and has advocated for effective treatment of children with autism through various legislative acts within the United States.  It was Tamara’s representative who drafted the initial legislation that allowed BCBAs to become “qualified supervising providers” of autism treatment in Wisconsin’s Autism Insurance Mandate.  She is diligently and continually developing new and necessary alternative educational placements for individuals with autism.  Internationally, she has trained treatment teams, parents and professionals in England, Ireland, Greece, Bermuda, Canada, and Senegal and most recently led an education team on a volunteer effort to support and train teachers and families in Ethiopia where services are virtually non-existent.


Described by attendees as “inspirational” and “empowering,” Tamara is a frequently invited international lecturer, enthusiastically sharing her unique approaches and intervention techniques that have been successful in building functional verbal behavior for children on the autism spectrum and furthering language to conversation.  She is also a past recipient of the Wisconsin Speech and Hearing Association’s Clinical Achievement Award and nominee for ASHA’s DiCarlo award.


Tamara carefully handpicked the best and brightest from the field of Applied Behavior Analysis and partnered with these individuals to form The Center for Autism Treatment, Inc. in 2006.  Currently, she serves as Director of The Center for Autism Treatment which provides Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention and a variety of unique social opportunities for children with autism.  She is constantly furthering the combined fields of ABA and Speech-Language Pathology via research on a variety of topics, supervision and mentoring of individuals working towards Board Certification as Behavior Analysts, and through continued consulting, workshops, and presentations.


Her leisure time interests include travel with her remarkable husband and two wonderful adult children, mission trips, marathons, triathlons, physical training, and reading.