Teaching Social Communication Using Picture Activity Schedules

Principal Investigator(s):
Robert Stromer, Ph.D.
Grant Type:
Applied Research
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Worcester, Massachusetts
Year Awarded:
Year Completed:
Early Intervention; Social and Communication Skills


Teaching with activity schedules may yield social communication skills that are not readily achieved with discrete trial or naturalistic methods (e.g., Krantz, 2000; McClannahan & Krantz, 1997). To date, research has focused on developing the speech skills that children with autism were able to use to engage their communicative partners (e.g., Krantz & McClannahan, 1993, 1998). In contrast, the present project examines interventions to teach children to use pictures in their socialization, a repertoire resembling the Picture Exchange Communication Skills or PECS (e.g., Bond & Frost, 1998, 2002). Pilot work has demonstrated that activity schedules are procedures capable of accommodating a variety of instructional materials, learner entry skills, and children who use PECS. Research using activity schedules to broaden children’s PECS skills has not been done. Moreover, recent projects began exploring how computers might enhance learning by such methods. This study will also help determine the potential for computers to teach social communication skills in the context of activity schedules. Children selected for this study will possess few if any functional speech skills but are able to use pictures to communicate, as in the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). The specific aims of the project are to verify that: (1) computer enhanced activity schedules teach children to use pictures to make requests and comments and (2) the computer enhanced activity schedules teach children to use pictures to initiate and sustain social interactions.

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