My friend lives in a world by himself.
Sometimes, he lets me join him.
Sometimes, he doesn’t.

My friend is like the sun.
Sometimes, he shines.
Sometimes, he disappears to a place I can’t see.

My friend is like a puppy dog.
Sometimes, he listens to what I say.
Sometimes, he just doesn’t understand.

My friend is like Abraham Lincoln.
Sometimes, people are amazed by his honesty.
Sometimes, they are angered by it.

My friend is like an Encyclopedia.
Sometimes, all his knowledge is very impressive.
Sometimes, I get bored and want to put him aside.

My friend lives in a world by himself.
Sometimes, I invite him to join my world.
Sometimes, he joins for awhile.

Joan Clark is an ASHA certified Speech Language Pathologist. She received her B.S. degree in Speech/language Pathology at Penn State and her M.A. degree in Communication Disorders from the University of Houston. Joan brings to parents and children an expertise in social communication disorders developed through her 20 plus years of experience in the belly of the beast- the public school setting, from pre-k to high school. She has worked and adjusted the programs developed in clinical and academic setting right there where the children are. This day-in and day-out experience gives her an inside edge that is unique and insightful.

How did this expertise develop? It all started in the mid-90s, shortly after “Asperger Syndrome” was added to the DSM Manual. During that year, she met a young kindergartener who intrigued her. At the time, his behavior was quite rigid, his interests very focused and narrow, his peer socialization almost non-existent, and his language processing significantly impaired. After researching, she came to the realization that he was a child with Asperger Syndrome. For seven years, she diligently worked with him; he absolutely fascinated her, and in some ways, she claims that he taught her more than she taught him. In the end, he became the inspiration for her children’s novels about a boy with Asperger Syndrome, Jackson Whole Wyoming and Ann Drew Jackson. While developing the storylines, she observed, studied, and created ideas about real life interactions between this child and his peers. As she did this, various questions about the true impact of social language disorders arose.

A family situation personalized her growing curiosity about this subject. And then more students with similar communication problems cropped up in her schools. Sadly, social communication problems were being overlooked unless there were co-existing academic impairments. And so Joan took it upon herself to tackle this problem. Social communication problems, in her mind, can often severely impact a child’s education and life. In the school setting, she brought her knowledge and know how to everyone that would listen- teachers, peers, parents, siblings, specialists, administrators…. everyone in the child’s environment.

Joan’s role as a member of an Autism Team that served several school districts in Illinois contributed greatly to her expertise. This team serviced school-aged children who had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder or were suspected of having one. She collaborated and consulted with teachers, specialists, and assistants and shared with them her own ideas and those of people renowned in the field. She believes that understanding people with Social Communication Disorders- how their brains work, how they develop over time, what makes them respond, the anxiety levels that impact their functioning- is one of the keys to providing effective treatment.

Joan’s expertise has landed her numerous speaking engagements, talking about a range of school related issues to a variety of people. Audiences have ranged from local parent support groups to much higher profile organizations and events, such as the Houston Chapter of the Autism Society of America, Illinois School Psychologist Conference, and the National Accelerated School Conference. Additionally, she was featured along with one of her students on a 30 minute PBS TV program designed to teach the public about Asperger Syndrome.

Joan currently lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband and dog. Her two grown children live in the panoramic, beautiful Northwest.