Natural Language Acquisition

Natural Language Acquisition - Online Training - Marge Blanc

What if you viewed echolalia through the lens of natural language acquisition?

Autistic children can be either analytic or gestalt language processors.

The NLA program teaches participants how to distinguish these two learning styles and discusses appropriate treatment planning for children who are gestalt language processors. The methods and strategies taught in this program follow Natural Language Acquisition principles.

This Complete Program Includes:

  • Self-Paced, 10.5 hour online training

  • Handout describing and illustrating NLA Stages

  • Handout describing the research base of NLA

  • Handout describing goal-writing with NLA

  • Reprintable NLA Scoring form

  • Handout of Developmental Sentence Types (DST)

  • Handout of Developmental Sentence Scoring "core grammar" (DSS)

  • Spreadsheet of Developmental Sentence Scoring chart

  • Reprintable Developmental Sentence Scoring form

  • Original article on Natural Language Acquisition

  • Follow-up support via the Natural Language Acquisition Practitioners (Private Facebook Group)

Why is this NLA course unique?

This advanced NLA Level 3 Course describes how the unique challenges of individual gestalt language processors can be addressed in treatment. It also explains how gestalt language processors self-generate language. Four in-depth case studies are presented early in the course with commentary from the students’ SLPs and/or parents. The case studies cover a range of ages and presenting profiles, and enhance learning during the rest of the course. The outline of the course is a conversation between the presenter and a parent of an older individual who began NLA as a ten-year old. Astute questions, in-depth answers, and supporting video presentations of clinical supports, language development supports, and the work of a cutting-edge neuroscientist add strength and variety to the presentation. Echolalia in older individuals is highlighted — along with options for clients who begin the NLA process late in their elementary, middle school, or even high school years. Participants who complete the Level 3 Course will be prepared to establish goals, plan treatment, and explain NLA to co-workers and families.


Natural Language Acquisition - Autism Therapy

What would your treatments look like for autistic children if you considered echolalia meaningful attempts to communicate?

Questions & Answers

Why is this course important to consider now?

Until recently, treatment programs for autistic children who were echolalic and who were gestalt language processors with delayed language development were not mainstream practice for Speech-Language Pathologists.  Echolalia was often considered abnormal and a disorder. The idea that echolalia and the use of scripts could be meaningful communication was not considered. The consequences of this mindset resulted in poor treatment outcomes. Current thinking recognizes that echolalia is not a disorder, but rather the first step in the natural language acquisition process known as gestalt language development. Displaying delayed language development, many autistic children have not been identified as gestalt language processors who need a specific therapy approach. The series of NLA courses will give you everything you need to honor this natural developmental style common in autism.

What competencies can I expect to acquire after completing the NLA Level 3 Course?

The following competencies will be acquired:

1. An understanding of intervention strategies for gestalt language processors at various ages, language levels, and levels of self-regulation.

2. The ability to explain the rationale for intervention goals and strategies at each stage of Natural Language Acquisition.

3. The skill to interface Stage 3 single word combinations with Developmental Sentence Types (DST) of pre-sentence grammar.

4.  Ways to approach the natural progression of early grammar at NLA Stage 4 through an understanding of Developmental Sentence Scoring (DSS).

5.  An understanding of individuals’ unique use of language gestalts (both early and remnant), at various ages and stages.

6.  The ability to formulate some questions and/or ideas about the use of AAC for gestalt language processors.

How can I prepare to successfully complete this Course?

Suggested prerequisites for this NLA Level 3 Course can be achieved through a combination of the NLA Level 1 and Level 2 online courses, and the material in the book, “Natural Language Acquisition on the Autism Spectrum: The Journey from Echolalia to Self-Generated Language” (Marge Blanc, 2012).

NLA Textbook

NLA Level 1 Course, #e82

NLA Level 2 Course, #e148

How is the NLA Level 3 course different than NLA Level 1 and 2 courses?

The Level 1 and 2 Courses describe the foundational structure of assessment and treatment with NLA. NLA Level 1 and 2 courses also describe how gestalt language processors develop language naturally, using the Stages described by NLA. Individualized supports enhance the language development process, and the NLA Level 3 Course complements the NLA Levels 1 and 2 courses by explaining those supports. Four case examples of very different clients are presented early in Course 3, so SLPs have a reference point for applying the Sections that follow. These include extensive videos detailing supports that can be used in treatment for clients of all ages and Stages, as well as cutting-edge research on emotional supports.

What topics are included in the NLA Level 3 course?

The Level 3 Course in Natural language Acquisition in Autism is an advanced course describing and illustrating the range of assessment, linguistic, social, and regulation supports that can be included in individualized treatment programs for children and young adults who are gestalt language processors with delayed language development. The Course builds on the Level 1 and Level 2 NLA Courses, and uses extensive video examples of treatment sessions and treatment supports to illustrate how Speech Language Pathologists can enhance treatment plans for individuals of any age as they progress from echolalia to self-generated language via the Natural Language Acquisition framework.

The Level 3 Course expands on the principles presented in the Levels 1 and 2 Courses, including the differences in the language development trajectories in analytic and gestalt language development, and ways to focus on the principles affecting gestalt language development using the Natural Language Acquisition framework. Resource materials are included to illustrate and communicate these differences and trajectories to others.

How does this Course present the research that supports the understanding of gestalt language processing as quantified and expanded in Natural Language Acquisition?

The Levels 1 and 2 Courses described the seminal research of Ann Peters, Barry Prizant, and others during the decades when natural language development was first described in our field. The Level 3 Course presents the research perspective in a succinct way that can be readily shared with others.

Will there be follow up support for persons who complete this Level 3 NLA Course?

Yes, once registered, learners may request to join the private Facebook group, Natural Language Acquisition Practitioners. Moderated by the author, members will have access to other expert practitioners who can share language samples, case studies, assessment questions, and therapy ideas and questions. With client and parent permission, audio and video tapes can be shared, and evaluated when individual practitioners present their intervention strategies, seek advice from their peers, and share ideas for further research in areas such as bilingual populations, deaf and hard of hearing clients, minimally-speaking clients, and AAC users. Collaborative efforts can be nurtured, and future publications and presentations considered.


"Level 3 of the NLA courses is a must for every SLP working with children who are gestalt language processors. Levels 1 and 2 allowed us to learn the NLA stages and guiding treatment principles. In this Level 3 course we learn how to individualize NLA intervention for specific clients with a host of differences, how and why to incorporate movement, and the power of grammar. Marge eloquently guides this course as we learn to tailor NLA intervention to meet the needs of real children and their families within meaningful and engaging contexts, ultimately fostering sincere and organic expression. " – CH

"In her third NLA course, Marge Blanc builds upon the foundation provided in the first two courses so that Speech-Language Pathologists can hone their skills to use the Natural Language Acquisition approach effectively with gestalt language processors. The third course provides an increased level of detail about providing treatment that takes clients' individual sensory and emotional needs into consideration to set them up for success so that treatment is effective. For autistic children who are gestalt language processors, the clinician's approach must match the client, or it is very difficult for treatment to be effective because the child will resist participating. This course provides the clinician with increased detail about effectively using the NLA approach from the very beginning of the clinician-client relationship to set both the clinician and student up for success. In addition, this course goes into increased detail about the different stages of language development in the NLA model, so that clinicians may build upon their understanding of what the stages may look like for different clients and recognize when the client is transitioning to different stages. This course is very helpful for Speech-Language Pathologists who would like more detail about using this treatment approach before implementing it with their clients, or clinicians who are currently using NLA but have questions about the stages or effective treatment methods when working with gestalt language processors." – MS

"With the background of knowing about NLA assessment and stages, the level three course gave me an understanding of how to incorporate this knowledge into treatment.  I am able to set up an affirming environment for reciprocal, self-generated language without relying on frustrating techniques such as withholding items." – EF

"Marge Blanc does it again! This course is a phenomenal in-depth deep-dive into all the areas the first two courses left you wondering about. We can truly wrap our heads around Stages 3 and 4, and it all makes so much sense! The case studies are incredible, and really help solidify and put into action all that Marge teaches. Every single pediatric SLP needs this information. It really should be required coursework in graduate school." – AZ