GMA Autism Series: Q and A

ByABC News via logo
January 17, 2003, 8:38 AM

Jan. 20 -- In the fall of 2001, Melinda Kotler met Michael Dinda, at a meeting for parents of children with autism, and they had a conversation that would change their lives.

Together, they founded the nonprofit TALK Inc.(Teaching Autistic, Apraxic and Severely Language Disordered Children), and then opened the Magnolia Speech School Demonstration Program in Berwyn, Pa., four months ago.

The concept behind the school is that the only truly appropriate program for severely language-disordered children is one that immerses them in a full-time only instruction program that is language-based and therapeutic.

Dinda has answered some of the questions on autism that were sent to If you still have questions, or yours were not answered, visit, or email the school at

Question: I am a public school teacher of preschool children and special needs children. I work with autistic students and would like to know how to get more information on the Magnolia School curriculum.

Also, I am curious to know if the founders of the school are familiar with the North Carolina T.E.A.C.C.H. system? This system seems to be quite well developed and successful. I would love to compare the two and exchange techniques so that we could explore the most advantageous approaches for my students. Thank you.

Rebecca, Weaverville,N.C.

Answer: TALK's (Teaching Autistic, Apraxic and Severely Language Disordered Kids) Magnolia School Demonstration Program is affiliated with the Magnolia Speech School in Jackson, Miss., and the curriculum we use was developed by Magnolia in Jackson over the last 46 years.

It is a developmental curriculum which is very detailed and systematic, covering 11 areas: audition, receptive language, expressive language, reading, Association Method, math, science, social studies, fine motor, gross motor and interaction skills. It is copyrighted by Magnolia in Jackson. Both our programs are full day intensive speech and language programs. Our focus is on developing fluency in oral and written language.

The Association Method, developed by Mildred McGinnis, is a multi-sensory phonics-based method that teaches children to say and recognize single sounds, then to combine sounds, then nouns, simple sentences and corresponding questions and so on to complex language, always ensuring the children master and continue to practice mastered material to lessen frustration and anxiety. It is the integration of attention, retention and recall that will allow the children to develop automaticity of language.

The underlying principles of teaching systematically, incrementally and ensuring success for the child have proven with many kids to be what they needed. You can learn about professional development in the Association Method by going to our website, clicking on the Related Links button, and click on the Dubard School for Language Disorders Link. It is a method that requires a long period of mentorship and training to become proficient in and provide children with the full benefit.

Question: I have an autistic 10 year old. Is there a window of opportunity for learning this method for the children?

Would like more information on this school and how it works. Thank you

Ginger, Goldsboro, NC

Answer: As with all interventions with autistic and severely communication impaired children, the younger you start the child in intensive therapy, the better the outcome potential.

To participate in an Association Method program, a child needs to be classroom ready, meaning they need to be able to sit and attend in a classroom setting. Children who have been through behavioral programs usually are accustomed to this. It could be appropriate for a 10 year old, but each child needs to be evaluated to determine if this is the appropriate educational choice for him or her.

There are two books available on the Association Method. One is Teaching Language Deficient Children by Etoile DuBard and Maureen Martin and the other is the original text by Mildred McGinnis called Aphasic Children: Identification and Education by the Association Method. For more information in the Association Method go to our website