This course is a podcast episode

You can listen to this course for free on most podcast players (Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, etc.). Once you have listened to the episode / course you can access the post-test and earn your certificate / ASHA CEUs using the links above.

Course Description and Learning Objectives

Remember the last time you had a headache that Advil just wouldn’t touch as you powered through your back to back sessions?  Or maybe you can recall the last bout of GI revenge that ensued following some poor decisions at a fast food drive-through for lunch?  Perhaps you weren’t as peppy with your clients, made a bit less small talk with your colleagues, and were a bit short with your partner.  “When we don’t feel well, we don’t do well” (ain't’ that the truth!) and our students with complex communication needs (CCN) are no different.  In this episode, Dr. Margaret Bauman and Jennifer Leighton share their experiences and advice, encouraging SLP’s to consider potential, underlying medical conditions that may be leading to behavioral changes in individuals with CCN.  Through stories of her clinical experiences with struggling patients, Dr. Bauman describes several scenarios within which a child’s change in behavior was an indication of an underlying condition of pain or illness that was not obvious.  Gear up for some detective work as this observant duo share compassionate tips for digging deeper, asking questions, and supporting our clients with CCN in new ways that recognize how strongly pain and illness shape behavior, and how loudly behavior communicates.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Discuss the importance of considering medical conditions for individuals with complex communication needs
  2. Discuss ways to identify when individuals with complex communication needs may be expressing pain
  3. Identify at least 3 medical conditions that could be associated with complex communicators


Course Presenters

Margaret Bauman, MD

Dr. Bauman is highly respected by her fellow clinicians and patients for the level of clinical care she provides and the advances that she has contributed to in the field. Dr. Bauman is a Neurologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of Autism and various neurological disorders in children, adolescents, and adults to include learning and developmental disabilities, seizures, cerebral palsy, and neurogenetic disorders. Dr Bauman is the founding director of the LURIE CENTER, formally called LADDERS (Learning and Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Rehabilitation Services).

Jennifer Leighton, MA, CCC-SLP

Jennifer Leighton, M.A., CCC-SLP has been a Speech-Language Pathologist for 30 years. She spent the first ten years of her career working with adults with neurological disorders. The background knowledge she obtained working with patients having sustained acquired brain injuries has truly prepared her for her work with children and young adults with developmental and learning disabilities, as well as with individuals with Complex Communication Needs (CCN). Previously, Jennifer worked at Spaulding Outpatient Center for Children, Lexington/LADDERS. At this program, with a team of other professionals, she had the opportunity to help shape and develop the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC Clinic) there. Her prior work at Franciscan Hospital for Children and at Melmark New England provided her with a strong foundation for her work with students on the Autism Spectrum, as well as her introduction to students with Complex Communication Needs. In her current role, Jennifer’s pursuit continues, supporting staff and working as a team member, to determine methodologies for choosing and implementing appropriate Augmentative Alternative Communication systems for children having varying abilities and diagnoses

SLP/BCBA; SLP Kate Grandbois (she/her) & Amy Wonkka (she/her

Kate and Amy are co-founders of SLP Nerdcast. Kate is a dually certified SLP / BCBA who works primarily as an "AAC Specialist." She owns a private practice with a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, augmentative alternative communication intervention and assessment, and consultation. Amy is an SLP who also works as an "AAC Specialist" in a public school setting. Amy's primary interests are AAC, typical language development, motor speech, phonology, data collection, collaboration, coaching, and communication partner training and support.

Speaker Disclosures

Jennifer Leighton financial disclosures:  Jen is an employee of a school system.  Jennifer Leighton non-financial disclosures: Jen is a member of the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) and the Massachusetts Speech and Hearing Association (MSHA)

Dr Bauman financial disclosures: employed as a neurologist in various outpatient hospital settings.  She is also a researcher through the Boston University School of Medicine. Dr Bauman non-financial disclosures: Dr. Bauman is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics,  the International Society for Autism Research, and the Society for Neuroscience, and serves on various advisory boards

Kate Grandbois financial disclosures: Kate is the owner / founder of Grandbois Therapy + Consulting, LLC and co-founder of SLP Nerdcast.  Kate Grandbois non-financial disclosures: Kate is a member of ASHA, SIG 12, and serves on the AAC Advisory Group for Massachusetts Advocates for Children. She is also a member of the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT), MassABA, the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and the corresponding Speech Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis SIG. 

Amy Wonkka financial disclosures: Amy is an employee of a public school system and co-founder for SLP Nerdcast. Amy Wonkka non-financial disclosures: Amy is a member of ASHA, SIG 12, and serves on the AAC Advisory Group for Massachusetts Advocates for Children.

Time Ordered Agenda

10 minutes: Introduction, Disclaimers and Disclosures

20 minutes:  Descriptions of the importance of considering medical conditions for individuals with complex communication needs

15 minutes:  Descriptions of individuals with complex communication needs and they may be expressing pain   

10 minutes:  Descriptions of medical conditions that could be associated with complex communicators 

5 minutes: Summary and Closing


The contents of this episode are not meant to replace clinical advice.  SLP Nerdcast, its hosts and guests do not represent or endorse specific products or procedures mentioned during our episodes unless otherwise stated.  We are NOT PhDs, but we do research our material.  We do our best to provide a thorough review and fair representation of each topic that we tackle.  That being said, it is always likely that there is an article we’ve missed, or another perspective that isn’t shared.  If you have something to add to the conversation, please email us! Wed love to hear from you!

Summary Written by Tanna Neufeld, MS, CCC-SLP, Contributing Editor

Key Terms and Additional Information provided by Maria De Leon, MS, CCC-SLP, Contributing Editor

Audio File Editing provided by Caitlan Akier, MA, CCC-SLP/L, Contributing Editor

Promotional Content provided by Ashley Sturgis, MA, CCC-SLP, Contributing Editor 

Web Editing provided by Sinead Rogazzo, MS, CCC-SLP, Contributing Editor