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Communication Interventions for Minimally Verbal Children With Autism: Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trial

  • Kasari, Connie
  • Kaiser, Ann
  • Goods, Kelly
  • Nietfeld, Jennifer
  • Mathy, Pamela
  • Landa, Rebecca
  • Murphy, Susan
  • Almirall, Daniel1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • 1 University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior
  • 2 Vanderbilt University
  • 3 First Five Los Angeles
  • 4 Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic
  • 5 University of Utah
  • 6 Kennedy Krieger Institute
  • 7 University of Michigan
Published Article
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Accepted Date
Jan 07, 2014
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2014.01.019


ObjectiveThis study tested the effect of beginning treatment with a speech-generating device in the context of a blended, adaptive treatment design for improving spontaneous, communicative utterances in school-aged, minimally verbal children with autism. MethodSixty-one minimally verbal children with autism, aged 5 to 8 years, were randomized to a blended developmental/behavioral intervention (JASP+EMT) with or without the augmentation of a speech-generating device (SGD) for 6 months with a 3-month follow-up. The intervention consisted of two stages. In Stage 1 all children received two sessions per week for 3 months. Stage 2 intervention was adapted (increased sessions or adding the SGD) based on the child’s early response. The primary outcome was the total number of spontaneous communicative utterances; secondary measures were total number of novel words and total comments from a natural language sample. ResultsPrimary aim results found improvements in spontaneous communicative utterances, novel words, and comments that all favored the blended behavioral intervention that began by including an SGD (JASP+EMT+SGD) as opposed to spoken words alone (JASP+EMT). Secondary aim results suggest that the adaptive intervention beginning with JASP+EMT+SGD and intensifying JASP+EMT+SGD for children who were slow responders led to better post-treatment outcomes. ConclusionMinimally verbal school-aged children can make significant and rapid gains in spoken spontaneous language with a novel, blended intervention that focuses on joint engagement and play skills and incorporates an SGD. Future studies should further explore the tailoring design used in this study to better understand children’s response to treatment. Clinical trial registration informationDevelopmental and Augmented Intervention for Facilitating Expressive Language (CCNIA);; NCT01013545.

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