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Episode #012: Autism Therapy and the Importance of Play with Liz Willis

There are times I feel stressed as a therapist because I want to get through all of the goals for my therapy session, so that’s why I love Liz’s playful approach to therapy. Liz Willis is an SLP who went back to school for her BCBA so that she could provide speech therapy and ABA services. Her dual degrees have made her feel more confident in the services that she provides, and you can really see how they inform how she structures her therapy sessions.

It can be tempting to jump straight into the language piece of an IEP, but Liz suggests that you consider focusing on the social and play piece first. Every interaction begins with social engagement, and when therapists nail down the basics of engagement first, expanding into other skills can reap dividends.

Liz is passionate about supporting teachers and providers, and she shares some of her favorite strategies including:

  • How to use play centers to teach language skills.
  • Her favorite assessments and why you should use more than one.
  • How to encourage play in students who only like one kind of play.

As an educator or service provider, there are going to be times when you just don’t have the skills your students need. Liz says that you need to recognize when you don’t know something and refer your clients out to someone else. There are so many pieces to the therapy puzzle, and collaborating makes your job easier. If you’d like to connect with Liz, you can reach her at her website, on Instagram, or at

Also, I have a FREE webinar on the 5 Strategies to Help Your Students With Autism Engage and Communicate coming up on April. It’s absolutely free and all who attend live will receive a free therapy material and certificate of participation! Click on the link below to register!

What’s Inside:

  • How early learners who have autism may play differently from their typically developing preschoolers, and why that matters.
  • Does every moment need to be language enriched?
  • Which comes first: engagement or play? Liz gives her thoughts on this chicken vs. egg dilemma.

Today’s Guest

Liz Willis, M.S., CCC-SLP/L, BCBA, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and behavior analyst in Morris County, NJ. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Pennsylvania State University in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Liz is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is licensed to practice speech therapy in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Liz has extensive experience working with children with autism and other speech and language needs. She provides consultation to school teams, including teachers, speech therapists, staff and other related service providers on the use of ABA strategies with children with autism.

Liz’s biggest passion lies in working closely with parents and families to promote generalization and maximize progress for the children with whom she works. She uses a play-based, family-centered approach in her direct therapy, and also offers parent and caregiver training on a variety of topics within the areas of speech, language, and behavior.

Mentioned In This Episode

Communitcation and Behavior Solutions
#004: Building Engagement for Students with Autism with Jessie Ginsburg
Free Webinar – 5 Strategies to Help Your Students With Autism Engage and Communicate

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