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Speech intervention in autism: Teaching verbal skills using the signed speech program

29 July 2005


Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that occurs in between 2-20 out of 10,000 individuals. Because two of three criteria for autism are contingent on language competency, intervention has largely focused on improving communication skills. Treatment plans designed to enhance communication in individuals with a dual diagnosis of autism and verbal apraxia should reflect both the motoric and behavioral challenges an individual faces. The Signed Speech Program is a communication intervention designed to increase both skill level and functionality of language for individuals diagnosed with both autism and other language impairments. This study attempted to determine the controlling effects three months of Signed Speech intervention, with treatment modifications reflecting the literature discussed above, had on a non-verbal child with a dual diagnosis of autism and verbal apraxia. Specifically, three hypotheses were proposed. Hypothesis 1 is that verbal articulation skills would improve. Hypothesis 2 is that receptive language comprehension would increase. Finally, Hypothesis 3 is that the functionality of language would improve, specifically with regards to spontaneous communication behaviors. Results indicated that both Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 3 were positively correlated with Signed Speech intervention. Hypothesis 2, however, did not appear to be affected by the Signed Speech intervention.


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