Predicting Useful Speech in Children with Autism


Funded by the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders (R01 DC006893)

Principal Investigator:

Paul Yoder, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Site Principal Investigator:

Linda R. Watson, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Division of Speech & Hearing Sciences

Co-Investigator:

Grace T. Baranek, Ph.D., Division of Occupational Science

Project Coordinator:  Maura Tourian, M.S.

This project is a collaborative project with Dr. Paul Yoder of Vanderbilt University. The purpose of the research is to determine what variables best predict the later language outcomes of young children with autism spectrum disorders. We are examining both child variables and parent-child interaction variables as possible predictors. The child variables include: (1) intentional communication acts; (2) ability to follow the attention cues of other people; (3) attention to speech directed by adults to the child; (4) object play skills; and (5) motor skills. The parent-child interaction variables include: (1) the extent to which the parents put into words what their child is communicating nonverbally; (2) the frequency with which parents comment on things to which their child is paying attention; and (3) the consistency with which parents respond to their child’s communication. We are recruiting a total of 70 initially nonverbal young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), 35 from North Carolina and 35 from Tennessee. All the children will be under 3½ years of age at the time they begin the study. Each child will be assessed at five 4-month intervals, so we can examine the predictors of developmental changes in the children’s language skills across a 16-month time period. The results of this study will help identify possible early intervention goals and strategies that may improve the effectiveness of communication intervention with young children with autism spectrum disorders.