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Incorporating A Peer-Mediated Approach Into Speech-Generating Device Intervention: Effects On Communication Of Preschoolers With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kathy Thiemann-Bourque, Sarah Feldmiller, Lesa Hoffman, Stacy Johner

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Purpose This study examined the effects of incorporating a peer-mediated approach into a speech-generating device (SGD) intervention on communication of 45 nonverbal and minimally verbal preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 95 peers without disabilities. The SGD was an iPad 2 (Apple) with voice output app. Method Effects were evaluated using a multivariate randomized control trial design with repeated measures for 4 cohorts across baseline, intervention, generalization, and maintenance phases. Children were randomly assigned to an experimental treatment that trained peers on use of the SGD or a business-as-usual comparison condition with untrained peers. Communication outcomes were measured for both children with ASD and peers. Results Children receiving the treatment demonstrated significant increases in rates of communication and more balanced responses and initiations (a measure of reciprocity) than children in the comparison group. They were able to generalize improvements and maintain communication gains. Treatment fidelity was high for school staff and peer implementation. Conclusions Results support positive effects on communication of teaching young children with ASD and peers without disabilities to use the same SGD system in typical preschool activities. SGD interventions that utilize peer-mediated approaches may improve core deficits in communication and reciprocity and allow for greater classroom social participation and interactions with peers.