Training Peer Partners to Use a Speech-Generating Device With Classmates With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Exploring Communication Outcomes Across Preschool Contexts

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Purpose: This study examined effects of a peer-mediated intervention that provided training on the use of a speech-generating device for preschoolers with severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and peer partners.

Method: Effects were examined using a multiple probe design across 3 children with ASD and limited to no verbal skills. Three peers without disabilities were taught to Stay, Play, and Talk using a GoTalk 4+ (Attainment Company) and were then paired up with a classmate with ASD in classroom social activities. Measures included rates of communication acts, communication mode and function, reciprocity, and engagement with peers.

Results: Following peer training, intervention effects were replicated across 3 peers, who all demonstrated an increased level and upward trend in communication acts to their classmates with ASD. Outcomes also revealed moderate intervention effects and increased levels of peer-directed communication for 3 children with ASD in classroom centers. Additional analyses revealed higher rates of communication in the added context of preferred toys and snack. The children with ASD also demonstrated improved communication reciprocity and peer engagement.

Conclusions: Results provide preliminary evidence on the benefits of combining peer-mediated and speech-generating device interventions to improve children's communication. Furthermore, it appears that preferred contexts are likely to facilitate greater communication and social engagement with peers.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, v. 60, issue 9, p. 2648-2662