General Questions

Spelling to Communicate teaches individuals with motor challenges the purposeful motor skills necessary to point to letters to spell as an alternative means of communication (AAC). The goal is to achieve synchrony between the brain and body. Skilled and rigorously trained communication partners teach purposeful motor skills using a hierarchy of verbal and gestural prompts. As motor skills improve through consistent practice, students progress from pointing to letters on letterboards to spell to typing on a keyboard. Accordingly, communication moves from concrete to abstract as motor skills progress.

S2C is appropriate for anyone age 5 or older who is nonspeaking, minimally speaking or unreliably speaking. Just as with traditional education, we adapt to the individual learning needs of a specific student. We know that all students can and want to learn.

For families traveling to Growing Kids Therapy Center from outside the greater metropolitan Washington, DC region: We offer a launch series of four appointments, scheduled as two appointments per day on each of two days. Over those two days, your speller will work with a practitioner on the letter boards, and you will receive in-person coaching to build your own skills as their Communication and Regulation Partner (CRP). All sessions are video recorded and will be saved in a secure digital folder, along with written transcripts of the sessions, which is accessible only to you and those you share it with. If you’re interested in beginning, please fill out our intake form so that we can contact you when an appointment becomes available.

For families who reside within the greater metropolitan Washington, DC region: We offer a new client appointment that lasts two hours. During that time, one of our practitioners will introduce your child to using the letter board and assess the unique needs of their sensory-motor processes to better determine how to support their journey to communication. We will answer your questions and develop a plan for ongoing services. This appointment is designed to be the first step leading to regular appointments with one of our practitioners. If you’re interested in beginning, please fill out our intake form so that we can contact you when an appointment becomes available.

If your child has reached the age of four, please contact us now to discuss when it might be appropriate to begin seeing your child. We may recommend a consult session to give you some ideas to build some motor and literacy skills to get ready for S2C.

If your child is three or younger, we recommend allowing traditional speech therapy, occupational therapy, and early intervention the chance to possibly work. In the meantime “feeding the brain." You can feed the brain by reading age-appropriate books aloud, using age-appropriate language, and practicing skills that build purposeful hand-eye coordination, such as catching balls, tracing letters, etc.

Nonspeaking is an umbrella term for individuals who cannot use speech as their primary, effective, and reliable means of communication.  Nonspeaking is inclusive of those who do not speak at all, are minimally speaking, or unreliably speaking.

The word “nonverbal” comes from Latin origin and means “without words.”  We know our community has many beautiful words, they just don’t have speech to communicate their words, thoughts, and ideas. We believe that using the term “nonverbal” contributes to the widespread misunderstanding that nonspeaking individuals lack intelligence, which is not true.

A person who is minimally speaking may be able to use some speech to produce a number of words or phrases but does not have enough speech for robust and flexible communication.  Minimal speech is often used for requesting wants and needs or providing short answers to questions.

A person who is unreliably speaking may have the ability to speak, but is not always able to access their speech intentionally or communicatively. For example, they may repeat words someone else has spoken, use scripted phrases, or quotes from tv shows and movies. Sometimes unreliable speakers mean exactly what they say, many other times they do not. The key characteristic is that speech can’t be relied upon as a primary and consistent means of communicating complex thoughts, ideas and experiences. 

We celebrate ALL means of communication! Many of our clients use muliple means of communication - spelling, AAC apps, speech generating devices, and sometimes speech.

Learning the motor skills to accurately spell on 26 letters leads to full, robust, flexible communication. Many other forms of AAC, such as picture exchange apps, use whole words and icons to construct sentences. These methods often also require complex motor skills and even when mastered, it’s impractical to program these apps with every word in a language. As such, these forms of AAC often can’t be used to engage fully with a teacher, discuss current events, or have meaningful conversations with friends and family. However, a person can say anything at all by learning the motor skills to choose from just 26 letters in the alphabet. As we like to say, “Twenty-six letters equals infinite possibilities!”

We offer a series of virtual video sessions, delivered via Zoom, during which one of our S2C Practitioners will teach you the methodology of S2C, so you can begin working with your loved one at home. The first session, “Foundations,” teaches the premises upon which S2C is built. The second, “Technique,” teaches how to use the boards, how to use a lesson, how to prompt motor skills and more. After some time to practice, you can schedule additional consults with our S2C Practitioners to review your skills and progression and provide coaching to get you to the next level. If you’re interested in beginning, please fill out our intake form so that we can contact you when an appointment becomes available.

Yes! About 70% of our clients are autistic, the other 30% have other disabilities; such as Down Syndrome, Angelman Syndrome, and other genetic conditions or symptoms that affect motor-sensory skills. S2C teaches the motor skills necessary to spell communication by using a letter board and is not limited to use with autistic students.

Our focus is on communication versus speech. Research has consistently shown that use of AAC will not decrease speech and often increases speech. We have seen anecdotal evidence that one of the happy byproducts of using letter boards can sometimes be improved speech. Our purpose is to teach a reliable and effective means of communication.  It is important to note that learning S2C is not incompatible with any other interventions you may choose to pursue as well.

Growing Kids Therapy Center is an independent Spelling to Communicate practice and though we are part of the larger I-ASC S2C network, we are not formally affiliated with any other practice or practitioners. If you prefer to be seen by someone in your local area, we recommend contacting the International Association for Spelling as Communication (I-ASC), which is the nonprofit organization that offers training and registration of S2C practitioners all over the world. That said, if you do travel to visit GKTC, we are very happy to work with your existing S2C Practitioner or try to connect you with a colleague near you.

While Visiting the Clinic

Nothing but your future speller! We have everything you need to get started right here in our clinic. We also have the supplies you will need to move forward.

We understand that many of our clients are anxious to begin, but we recommend that you don’t before being seen by a practitioner. Although S2C looks simple when you observe it, and it is after you are familiar, there is a specific reason behind every aspect of how it is delivered. What might seem like an inconsequential change to our method can establish habits that turn into obstacles; it’s much easier to prevent those habits than it is to remove them. It’s also possible that you will not be able to get a positive response from your child; and incorrectly conclude that he or she is unable or unwilling to learn – when what really happened is that you didn’t have all the tools you needed to begin.

Begin to shift your mindset toward a presumption of competence in your child. We know that his or her internal thinking doesn’t match the actions of their external body. Nonspeaking people are hearing and understanding everything around them, even if they are not showing that understanding in the same way that you do. Always speak to them in an age-appropriate manner and feed their minds with books, podcasts, music, and more.

The closest airport to the GKTC clinic is Washington Dulles airport; but there are three major airports in the region as follows:

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD): 4.5 miles (10 minutes travel to clinic).
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA): 25 miles (35 minutes travel to clinic).
Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI): 54 miles (1-2 hours travel to clinic).

Because of our proximity to the airport, there are many lodging options to choose from located a convenient distance from GKTC. Many of our visitors choose one of the following options:

For additional local information, visit Plan Your Visit

Not unless you simply prefer the convenience of having one: taxis, rideshares, and public transportation options are plentiful. There are multiple grocery stores and many restaurants within walking distance, including ones that can accommodate a wide variety of specific dietary needs.

Herndon is filled with parks, trails, playgrounds, and public spaces. Click here to see what you can enjoy while you are here.


For additional local information, visit Plan Your Visit

After Your Visit

We can continue to offer you consults and live spelling sessions via Zoom from our clinic in Herndon, no matter where you are located. To find out whether a registered practitioner may be found in your local area, contact the International Association for Spelling as Communication I-ASC, .

We love our spellers and families and are thrilled to see them again! Your next visit may be scheduled differently than the original launch series you’ve had, since our introductory sessions are designed for that specific purpose. We will work with you and your schedule to see what might be the best plan for your ongoing needs.

We do this frequently and would be happy to assist you in establishing communication with other people in your child’s life. If you have regular appointments already with one of our practitioners, simply mention this need to them, and it can be arranged. If you don’t already have regularly scheduled appointments, please email us at contact@growingkidstherapy.com, and we can offer either in-person or Zoom training for anyone you choose.

We offer a Parent Cohort that is designed to grow your foundation of knowledge about S2C. Over ten bi-weekly classes, it teaches theory (e.g., anxiety, loops, regulation) and application (e.g., writing lessons, teaching through visual/ kinesthetic/auditory/tactile modes); and covers the many other roles of communication partners. It is appropriate for a wide range of fluency levels, but it is not an introductory or “how to” course on using the letter boards, as it is intended for those who have already begun with a registered S2C practitioner. Check our events page to see when the next one is scheduled to begin, or fill out this form to be notified when registration opens for the next available course.

We have a variety of lesson collections available in our online store, which you can review here. Our sister nonprofit organization, I-ASC (the International Association for Spelling as Communication), frequently releases free lessons on their website, found here. And, you can browse the products at Spellers Learn, a crowdsourced lesson-sharing store founded by a parent in our community.

We invite all of our client families into our private facebook group, called “The Nest,” so they can connect and share tips, questions, and advice. For confidentiality purposes, this group is not available to families prior to being seen by one of our practitioners. If you are a client and would like to be invited into this group, please email us at contact@growingkidstherapy.com.

GKTC plans regular social events that may be held in-person or online. Please check the events page here to see what’s on the schedule. We also offer semester-long and summer educational groups designed for spellers of all fluency levels, which can be accessed from any location. Check our current offerings here.

We also recommend the events offered by the I-ASC,International Association of Spelling as Communication, which you can find here.

Communication partnerships take both trust and practice to establish, and communication is only as strong as the skills of the weakest partner. Starting a new partnership is a lot of work! For you, if you are learning; or for your speller, if they are waiting for you to develop skills. Communication shouldn’t be limited to just one person or to professional sessions. The goal is always to expand access for your child, so that communication can be available with all people, across all settings. Please discuss your options with your practitioner, who will guide you on the next step.

Getting support for S2C in schools is complex and requires extensive training for school staff.  For that reason and more, we recommend not asking for school-based support until a level of proficiency has been achieved with your child using the letterboards. We are happy to discuss your speller’s needs with you.

It’s common for the parent/child communication dyad to be a difficult one to build. Emotion is at its highest point in that pairing, because both parent and speller  want so badly to communicate with one another long before the skills of either party can keep up. Trust that the resistance you think you’re seeing is not representative of your child not wanting to spell, it’s more likely to be wanting it too much that is causing the interference. If you should encounter any obstacles in your home practice, please contact us to schedule some coaching and guidance. Always remember: the outside doesn’t match the inside.

Our spellers have explained to us: they are always listening and taking in information from sources all around them!  Magazine covers, news on tv, overheard conversations, and more are all sources that allow them to absorb information that many of us don’t even notice. Don’t be surprised if they know all sorts of things you didn’t teach them! But, it’s likely that there are gaps in their knowledge as well – presuming competence does not mean assuming mastery.

Please email us at contact@growingkidstherapy.com and we would be happy to answer your questions or connect you with appropriate resources.