Comparing Tangible Symbols, Picture Exchange and a Direct Selection Response when Teaching Requesting to Two Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who fail to develop functional speech are candidates for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. One of the primary intentions of AAC is to provide an alternative method of communicating in the absence of speech (Mirenda, 2003). In order to select the most beneficial AAC system for a user, in regards to the ease of acquisition and successfully communicating with AAC systems, it is considered important to undertake research comparing various AAC systems and to assess users’ preferences for using one system over another. Empirical evidence from previous studies comparing AAC indicates that users often learn to use AAC systems with varying degrees of proficiency and at various acquisition rates. Additionally, assessing users’ preferences for different AAC systems has been shown to influence acquisition rates and long term maintenance of AAC systems and is suggested to be an important component when carrying out AAC intervention. In the present study a tangible symbol (TS) communication system was compared, in terms of acquisition rates and preference, with Picture Exchange (PE) and an additional direct selection (DS) method of gaining access to desired stimuli in two young boys with ASD. Two male participants diagnosed with ASD were taught via systematic instructional procedures to request/gain access to the continuation of preferred cartoon movies by using TS, PE, and DS. Additionally, preference assessments were implemented during intervention and follow-up phases to determine whether the participants showed a preference for using one of these three requesting/access methods over the other two, and whether any such preferences remained stable throughout follow-up sessions. Results indicated that both participants successfully learned to request each of the six cartoon movies using each of the three methods. Specifically, acquisition rates for TS and PE were comparable across both participants, and overall both participants preferred to request using the TS. During intervention sessions, one participant preferred to use DS, however this preference changed during follow-up where he chose to use TS more overall. These data suggest that TS is a viable AAC option for children with ASD who do not speak, and can be learned to a high proficiency after receiving systematic teaching procedures as used in the present study.