Research

SELECTIVE PROJECTS AND PUBLICATIONS

ONGOING STUDY: DO CHILDREN WITH ASD PERCEIVE PROSODY DIFFERENTLY FROM TYPICALLY-DEVELOPING CHILDREN?

Successful communication depends on both what is said and how something is said. This aspect of language is collectively referred to as prosody and is ubiquitous in human communication. Individuals with ASD demonstrate significant difficulties with at least one aspect of prosody. Not only are prosodic deficits likely to persist and affect long-term social and communicative competence in individuals with ASD, they also create stigmatizing barriers to social integration and acceptance, which directly impact their interpersonal relationships, professional opportunities, emotional development, and overall quality of life. Thus, accurate identification and effective interventions that target prosodic deficits are necessary to improve long-term social and communication outcomes for individuals with ASD.

This project aims to understand the perception of prosody in children with ASD and is guided by three aims:

1. Develop and test the feasibility of an eye-tracking paradigm that measures the perception of prosody in children with ASD

2. Investigate if children with ASD perceive specific prosodic cues (i.e. contrastive pitch accent) differently from typically developing children

3. Understand if variabilities in the perception of specific prosodic cues in children with ASD are related to broader communication skills, including (a) receptive prosody, (b) expressive prosody, (c) pragmatic language skills, and (d) social communication functions.

DO CHILDREN WITH ASD GENERALIZE LEARNED VOCABULARY FROM ONE MODALITY TO AN UNTRAINED MODALITY?

Su, P.L., Castle, G., & Camarata, S. (2019). Cross-modal generalization of receptive and expressive vocabulary in children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Developmental Language Impairments, 4, 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1177/2396941518824495.

Infographics in Mandarin

Abstract in English

The purpose of this study was to investigate receptive and expressive word acquisition and cross-modal generalization in children with autism spectrum disorder. A single-case parallel treatments design was used to compare word learning and cross-modal generalization in children with autism spectrum disorder. Ten children with autism spectrum disorder were taught unfamiliar vocabulary words in a combined storybook and play intervention. For each child, half of the target words were trained expressively and the other half were trained receptively by random assignment. No direct cross-modal instruction was delivered. A series of probe sessions were completed to assess participants’ within-modal learning and cross-modal generalization of vocabulary learning.

All children learned target words in both receptive and expressive conditions, as evidenced by an average of 80% accuracy across three trials at the end of each intervention. Overall, cross-modal generalization was higher for the expressive-to-receptive direction than for the receptive-to expressive direction. Contrary to the assumption that vocabulary learning will be ‘‘automatically’’ generalized across modalities, results from this study indicate that cross-modal generalization at the word level is not automatic nor consistent in children with autism spectrum disorder, particularly in the receptive-to-expressive direction.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT EVIDENCE BASE FOR INTERVENTIONS FOR MINIMALLY VERBAL CHILDREN WITH ASD?

Koegel, L.K., Bryan, K., Su, P.L., Vaidya, M., Camarata, S. (Under review). Researched treatments for non-verbal and minimally verbal individuals with Autism: A systematic review. Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics.

Abstract in English

Most children diagnosed with ASD will present with late onset verbal communication, and at least one third of these children will remain minimally or completely nonverbal throughout their lifespan, speaking few or no words. Challenges with verbal language can negatively affect many areas, including socialization, academics, and employment. The objective of this review was to review interventions for the treatment of nonverbal and minimally verbal individuals with ASD. This review exclusively selected studies that targeted verbal communication in minimally and nonverbal individuals diagnosed with ASD. The interventions provided, the outcomes of these interventions, the measures used to assess change, and pre- post measures were reviewed. A literature search was conducted through ProQuest (Mendeley reference manager). Articles were extrapolated from seventy data bases. The publication span entered was 1960 to 2018.

Our search yielded 2007 articles, of which 29 studies met our inclusion criteria. Inclusion criteria included: (1) Research Design: studies that involved systematic, experimentally controlled investigations, such as randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental designs, and single-case designs; (2) Diagnosis: only studies that included minimally verbal, nonverbal, and preverbal participants diagnosed with ASD were included; and (3) Targeted verbal communication: the goal of the intervention was to instate or improve initial verbal communication, including the production of words, word attempts, or sounds. This review found that there were a wide variety of interventions provided, comparisons across interventions was lacking, and dependent measures varied considerably.

Presently, pediatricians and service providers are unable to provide treatment recommendations regarding preferred interventions for non- and minimally verbal individuals with ASD given the lack of research. While it appears that verbal-focused treatments in natural settings with parent participation is optimal, research regarding the most effective and efficient interventions for this high need group is lacking. Lack of uniformity in regard to dependent and pre- post measures, participant ages, and interventions implemented make it difficult to compare outcomes across studies.

DO CHILDREN WITH HEARING LOSS PRIOR TO COCHLEAR IMPLANT RECEIVE DIFFERENT QUANTITY AND/OR QUALITY OF MATERNAL INPUT?

Su, P.L. & Roberts, M. (In press). Quantity and Quality of Parental Utterances and Responses to Children with Hearing Loss Prior to Cochlear Implant. Journal of Early Intervention.

Abstract in English

This study investigated the extent to which parental language input to children with hearing loss (HL) prior to cochlear implant (CI) differs from input to children with typical hearing (TH). A 20-minute parent-child interaction sample was collected for 13 parent-child dyads in the HL group and 17 dyads in the TH group during free play. Ten minutes were transcribed and were coded for four variables: (a) overall utterances; (b) high-quality utterances; (c) utterances in response to child communicative acts (i.e., overall responses); and (d) high-quality utterances in response to child communicative acts (i.e., high-quality responses). Differences were detected for both quantity and quality of parental language input across the two groups. Early language skills correlated with three out of the four parental variables in both groups. Post-hoc analyses suggested that the lower rate of high-quality responses in parents of children with HL could be attributed to lower intelligibility of child communication.