Effects of video AAC technology on communication and play for children with autism
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is currently the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States. Children with ASD evidence deficits in social and language skills, with thirty percent of these children termed nonverbal (using few or no consistent words) by the age of four. These significant communication difficulties have a negative impact on education, friendship formation, employment, and independence across the lifespan. In early childhood, interactive pretend play with peers provides an important context for development of social and language skills. Nonverbal children with ASD are at risk for exclusion from pretend play due to difficulties with both acquisition of pretend play behaviors and communication during pretend play; as such, they often miss out on the very play experiences that would allow them to observe and practice the skills they lack. Several existing interventions have successfully targeted both play behaviors and communication during pretend play for children with ASD, but few have provided adequate expressive communication supports for nonverbal children. To address this gap, the current study uses a single subject, multiple probe design across participants to examine the effect of an innovative AAC approach, the use of video visual scene displays, on communication and pretend play with peers for individuals with ASD and limited speech. The long term goals of this research are to develop and evaluate effective tools and interventions that will improve communication outcomes, social outcomes, and overall quality of life for nonverbal children with ASD.