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Experimental evaluation of a parent-implemented AAC intervention protocol for children with severe autism

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Parent involvement is considered crucial in autism and AAC intervention. If parents can be trained to conduct at least early AAC intervention phases, children may obtain more consistent benefits from AAC without extra costs. In this project, parents of children with autism were trained to teach requesting on an iPad. Instruction followed a modified Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Treatment effects were evaluated through a rigorous single-subject experimental design with replication across three participants. The instructional protocol followed the traditional PECS phases modified for infusion of a tablet device. Dependent measures were: (a) the number of correct requests during a 20-trials session; (b) the number of word vocalizations or approximations. Intervention phases targeted requesting for food items; generalization probes were taken for requesting different toys.

Children learned to expand symbolic utterances and develop spontaneous communication. Overly positive results were obtained for teaching requesting skills, and the generalization thereof. Moderate to strong results were yielded for increasing speech skills. Social validity data were gathered from families and indicate acceptability of protocol procedures and positive impacts in the family environment. Difficulties were reported with correct implementation of error correction.

Many families impacted by autism are attracted by the use of iPads and other tablet devices for communication purposes, but simply providing the child with the device will not automatically create an intervention effect. It is crucial to coach parents in carrying out a suitable instructional approach that helps to maximize the effects of an iPad-based AAC intervention.


Oliver Wendt    
Purdue University
United States

Ning Hsu    
Purdue University
United States

Katelyn Warner    
Purdue University
United States

Anna Goss    
Purdue University
United States


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