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Develop advanced measurement systems to inform and improve practice - Social behavioral, and emotional development

PI Duration Sponsor
Communication Intervention for Preschoolers learning to use AAC (CI-PAAC)

Thiemann-Bourque, K.


National Institutes of Health

Purpose: Communication interventions for nonverbal children with autism have yet to fully address the need to teach functional language that optimizes opportunities for children to be fully included in natural environments. The aims of this study will examine alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) approaches that emphasize functional communication and reciprocal interactions between young children with autism and their classmates without disabilities in inclusive settings. AAC treatments hold promise but have failed to be incorporated adequately into contexts (e.g., the preschool classroom) that are most likely to motivate learning of functional language and associated social skills. In this study, we will design and evaluate a communication intervention for preschool children with autism learning to use a speech generating device (SGD) as an AAC system. Voice output Apps for the iPad will be explored as a SGD option to increase communication.

Project Activities: Approximately 48 preschool children with autism, 48 early education school staff, and 144 peers without disabilities will participate in the study. We will recruit 12 nonverbal or minimally verbal children with autism each year, along with 36 peers (3 per child) from the greater Kansas City KS and MO school districts, including Lawrence. School staff will receive training on programming and instruction using an iPad with appropriate voice output Apps as a communication system for all children with autism. After the initial staff training, half of the children with autism will be randomly assigned to an intervention condition that incorporates additional teaching strategies using the iPad; and the other half will be assigned to a control condition with follow-up observations in the classroom. The intervention will be implemented for one school year. We will use the Communication Complexity Scale (CCS; Brady et al., 2012) to measure changes in complexity of prelinguistic and early linguistic communication, with adult and peer partners. We will also measure changes in peer-oriented play based on commonly used developmental play categories and behaviors.


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