Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


First International Conference; Italy, 2001

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #11
Language Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism
Thursday, November 29, 2001
10:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hall of the Ceiling
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Behavior Analysis
Chair: Ann P. Kaiser (Vanderbilt University)
Discussant: Craig H. Kennedy (Vanderbilt University)
Abstract: Depending upon the child's age and current communication skills, different modes of communication (verbal, sign, or symbol) may be selected for early communication interventions. The two papers presented in this symposium report data resulting from early interventions to teach functional communication skills to young children with autism. The first paper describes the immediate and long term outcomes of teaching 15 preschool children with autism to use the Picture Exchange System. The PECS protocol was implemented by children's classroom teachers. The effects of the study were assessed using single subject design to assess performance in baseline, treatment and follow-up phases. All children showed increases in the forms and functional uses of communication. High levels of treatment fidelity and reliability were obtained. In the second paper, three variations of naturalistic language teaching were used with 15 preschool children with autism who used speech as their primary mode of communication. The children were taught target language skills using one of three procedures: Enhanced Milieu Teaching (EMT) implemented by parents, EMT implemented by teachers, or Responsive Interaction implemented by parents. In a single subject design to evaluate each implementation, the effects of the three interventions were assessed during treatment, generalization and follow-up conditions spanning 1 year. Children demonstrated acquisition of targets in all three types of naturalistic teaching, however generalization and maintenance were most consistent for children who were taught using EMT procedures by their parents. High levels of treatment fidelity and reliability are also reported. Together, these studies provide evidence of effective early communication intervention for children with autism as indicated by the acquisition, generalization and maintenance of functional communication skills. Contrasting procedures and outcomes for children with different entry communication skills will be considered. Specific questions for future research will be discussed and recommendations for effective practice will be made.
The Effects of Variations in Naturalistic Language Teaching on Young Children with Autism
ANN P. KAISER (Vanderbilt University), Terry Hancock (Vanderbilt University)
Abstract: Naturalistic approaches to teaching language according to the extent to which prompts for functional language use are embedded in the interaction and by the agent of the intervention. For example, variations of milieu teaching typically include prompts for functional language (e.g., time delay, mands, elicitive models and incidental teaching) whereas responsive interaction approaches rely on non- elicitive models, expansions, and semantically related feedback to introduce new language. Naturalistic teaching has been applied by both teachers Kaoegel, O'Dell & Koegel, 1987; McGee, Krantz & McClannahan, l985) and parents (Kaiser, Hancock & Neitfeld, 2000) with promising results for children in with autism. Because social language use is a likely to be a long term and pervasive problem for children with autism, the effects of variations of naturalistic teaching on generalization and maintenance of language skills taught through naturalistic methods are of particular interest. In this paper, we report data for 15 preschool children with autism spectrum disorders who participated in three variations of naturalistic language intervention: Enhanced Milieu Teaching (EMT) delivered by therapists, Enhanced Milieu Teaching (EMT) by parents, or Responsive Interaction (RI) by parents. Children with at least 10 spontaneous words and tested receptive and productive language scores in the 20-28 month range were randomly assigned to one of the three treatments. Following 5-9 baseline sessions, naturalistic language teaching procedures were either implemented by trained therapists or the therapists taught the procedures to the parent. All children received 24 sessions of naturalistic intervention during play sessions. Generalization to interactions with parents at home was observed 9 times during the course of the study. Children returned to the clinic for six monthly follow-up observations. Observational data were collected for baseline, treatment, home generalization and follow-up conditions using an ABC design with multiple probes for generalization. Interobserver agreement of coded adult and child behaviors, collected on 25% of the observations, was high. Variations in length of baselines allowed comparisons across within the three treatment groups. All children demonstrated acquisition of their language targets during the primary intervention provided by the therapist or trainer and all children showed evidence of generalization and maintenance of their newly learned sk
An Experimental Investigation into the Efficacy of the Picture Exchange Communication System for Use with Young Children with Autism
ANN N. GARFINKLE (Vanderbilt University), Ilene S. Schwartz (University of Washington), Janet Bauer (University of Washington)
Abstract: By definition, all children diagnosed with autism have a deficit in communication skills. While children with autism, as a group, have a wide range of communication behaviors, a substantial percentage of the population is nonverbal or minimally verbal. In recent years, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS; Bondy & Frost, 1994) has become a widely adopted system of augmentative communication for use with children with autism who are nonverbal or minimally verbal. While anecdotal reports of the systems efficacy are numerous and positive, there are only two published reports of the system's effectiveness (Bondy & Frost, 1994; Schwartz, Garfinkle, & Bauer, 1998). While the findings in both of these studies indicate that PECS is an effective and efficient system of communication for young children, both are descriptive studies. This methodology limits the claims that can be made about the effectiveness of the system, and illustrates the need for further study. The proposed paper describes an intervention study, with good experimental control that was designed to investigate the efficacy of the PECS system in young children with autism. Fifteen preschool aged children diagnosed with autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder participated in this single subject study. The study uses a repeated AB probe design. Data were collected on the form, function, and use of the child's communication behaviors in two different classroom settings (freeplay and snack). Once baseline communication behaviors were stable, the child received instruction according to the PECS protocol. All intervention was provided by the child's classroom teacher as part of the child's educational program. Data were regularly collected on treatment fidelity and amount of training need to meet mastery criteria for each phase of training. Probes on communication behaviors were collected every 6 months for 2 years on each child. Interobserver agreement, collected on 30% of the samples, was high. The results indicate that children learned to use the system, that children used more communicative functions and more then half of the sample developed speech. Results will be discussed in terms of the use of PECS and future research that is needed.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh