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  • Writer's pictureSarah Zucca MS, LPC, CADC

Dialoging with Ashton Gress - Owner of Social Learning Pathways

When we started our journey securing Story Grammar Marker services for our son, we knew not all speech therapists specialize in the same area. To our surprise, we never thought we would have to educate our insurance company or others in our world as to why we needed a provider with a certain training to deliver AZ's speech intervention.

As I reflected on this, I realized not everyone on this neurodiverse services journey may know the differences between speech and language providers and the different areas of specializations.

Thankfully, we have a provider starting her new private practice in our area who specializes in unique and vital services for neurodivergent children, teens, and adults! Because this topic needs to be shared, I decided to sit down with Ashton Gress to help spread information, share an amazing resource, and give my vote of confidence regarding her clinical work!

Ashton is the owner of Social Learning Pathways in Chambersburg, PA. She is providing speech and language services to children, teens, and adults with a focus on increasing their ability to navigate the social world successfully. Ashton has experience working at outpatient centers and within the school district.

What are the different areas of speech and language therapy, and what sets you apart from other therapists?

Speech therapy covers a wide range of areas from articulation, phonology, voice and resonance, oral motor, swallowing, fluency, receptive language, expressive language, narrative language, pragmatic language, AAC (augmentative and alternative communication), hearing, accent modification, cognition, and motor speech. I feel that I have a gift when it comes to connecting with my clients and have found my niche with social cognition (particularly the Social Thinking ® Methodology), narrative language (Story Grammar Marker ®), and executive functioning (360 Thinking ®).

Social Thinking ® is different than traditional social skills training. Social Thinking ® “explicitly teaches how to engage in social information processing; how to attend, interpret, problem solve and respond in any situation—the thinking and doing skills that will aid them in becoming increasingly successful in the social world throughout their lives. It is not simply telling them what to do in a situation.”

There are only two licensed Social Thinking clinics in the United States (Massachusetts and

California). I have been fortunate to work with the Director of Social Thinking Boston®, Nancy

Clements on multiple occasions and with several of my clients. I’ve observed her with

numerous assessments, treatment sessions, and had her guidance and training. In 2017, I

completed the Social Thinking Clinical Training Program. I have also attended summer camps at Social Thinking Boston and worked with Nancy and her team. She remains an amazing resource, and I continue to consult and learn from her. I have also attended Providers Conferences in California and multiple other trainings.

A lot of professionals only use the motivational tools (Superflex and Zones of Regulation being popular ones), and while they are great, it’s so much more!

If you don’t know what Story Grammar Marker ® is, you should! I have completed two trainings with Dr. Elise Rosenberg-Roberts of New York. She possesses a wealth of knowledge with over 30 years of experience. I also consult with her on assessments and therapy sessions to best serve my clients and their narrative language skills. As far as executive functioning goes, I have attended multiple conferences and use materials

What are you most passionate about?

I truly care about my clients. Having my clients be successful, building their social attention, and watching them grow drives me to be a better clinician. I also love giving families information to better understand their child/teen. I will never forget an assessment I completed and tears filled the mother’s eyes. She said, “thank you for helping me understand my child. I couldn’t understand why he would do so great certain times and then completely mess up other social situations.” Being social is dynamic and should not be measured by standardized assessments. Social Thinking can be taught, and I love seeing the a-ha! moments when they learn the ‘why’ behind the concepts.

What do families need to look for when finding a provider if their child needs a more targeted intervention for narrative language and or social thinking?

I would ask what training and qualifications they hold in that area. It truly does make a difference!

What is your goal for starting your own practice in the Chambersburg area?

My goal is to bring more education and information to the community. Knowledge is power and families need this to advocate for their child. Having a private practice will allow each client and family to receive more personalized attention and support.

Aren't speech and language providers just for kids?

Speech therapy is for all ages from birth to adulthood. Specifically, the Social Thinking® methodology will most benefit those ages four (4) through adulthood with high language and learning skills, but weak social learning skills. However, all people benefit from exploring their own and others' expectations. Remember, our social abilities develop and evolve over time and social expectations change with age!

In addition, executive function skills are not always directly taught. Therefore, it can impact anyone, at any age. Children, teens, and adults may struggle with organization, time management, multi-tasking, and mood regulation. Writing lists or alerts in your phone will not change the core deficit of the ability to regulate one's self and "see" the passage of time. Sarah Ward's 360 Thinking Method® teaches the foundational skills to overcome these deficits and this is the method I utilize in my treatment sessions.

To connect with Ashton Gress, visit Social Learning Pathways!

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