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Making Words Meet: Using Computerized Feedback to Facilitate Word Combinations in Children with ASD

City: 
Urbana
State/Province: 
IL
State/Province Full: 
Illinois
Country: 
United States

The goal of this interdisciplinary study is to examine the use of a novel treatment (i.e., computerized feedback) to facilitate speech production in children with ASD. Communication difficulties represent a core feature of ASD, but literature documenting the effectiveness of speech therapy in this population is sparse. The study hypothesizes that visual feedback provides an effective means to facilitate speech in children with ASD and to this end have developed software that visually depicts meaningful aspects of voice production (e.g., loudness, pitch, and turn-taking) on a computer screen. The study expands this technology to graphically represent individual syllables and examines its influence on multisyllabic speech production in a planned group design of 18 children with ASD who are randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) speech intervention with computerized feedback, (b) speech intervention with traditional feedback using a pacing board, and (c) social skills intervention without an explicit focus on speech. With support from the National Science Foundation, the research team is developing computer software that will provide real-time visual feedback in response to speech production, thereby allowing children with ASD to see meaningful differences in their own speech and the speech being modeled for them. The effects of the computerized and traditional speech interventions on children's spoken language will be compared to the effects of a general social skills intervention that is intended to be beneficial but not focus on speech production explicitly.