Children who do not communicate with spoken words or an augmentative/alternative communication system are an underserved group among those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These nonverbal children are often exluded from autism intervention studies in part because they have not responded to traditional intervention methods. In response to the request from funding agencies and the autism community to develop treatments for nonverbal children, the goal of this project is to develop an intervention designed to promote communication in nonverbal children with ASD.
This study aims to assess novel treatment methods for children with ASD who are nonverbal or limited spoken language by 5 years of age despite involvement in traditional intervention programs. The design of this study examines the efficacy of the two treatments aimed at improving such children's social and communication abilities. Specifically, two contrasting joint attention/engagement interventions are tested in this study, one traditional form of treatment focusing primarily on spoken communication (JAE-EMT) and another form of treatment focusing on communicating using an augmentative communication device (JAE-EEC).
Qualifying children with ASD ranging from 5 to 8 years of age will be randomized to one of these two treatments for 12 weeks. This study will use a SMART design to re-randomize children who may not be responding to a particular treatment after the initial 3-month stage of the study. Subsequently, at the second stage of the treatment, this intervention features a parent coaching segment, which focuses on teaching caregivers skills to improve the social and communication outcomes of their chidlren.
Overall, the purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of these two different forms of joint attention/engagement intervention aimed at facilitating change in social and communication outcomes of children with autism.