Testing the Validity of the Pictorial Infant Communication Scale in Preschool-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: To investigate the concurrent validity of the PICS, a parent-reported measure of joint attention abilities, in preschool-aged children with ASD.
Methods: Participants included 197 children with ASD who were recruited as part of a larger study examining the comparative efficacy of public school-based intervention models for preschoolers with ASD (Boyd et al., 2014). Children were between the ages of 3 and 5 years (M = 47.60 months, SD= 7.49 months) at enrollment, and were assessed twice during the school year (pre- and post-test). Parents completed the PICS at pre-test. The PICS yields subscale scores for Initiating Joint Attention (IJA), Initiating Behavioral Requests (IBR), and Responding to Joint Attention (RJA), as well as a Total Score. To obtain a direct clinical measure of child joint attention and language skills, a subset of children (n = 25) were administered the Early Social Communication Scales (Mundy et al., 2003), the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL; Mullen, 1995), and the Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition (PLS-4; Zimmerman, Steiner, & Pond, 2002) at pre-test. Pearson r correlations among scores on the PICS and ESCS, and the PICS and PLS-4 and MSEL were calculated.
Results: PICS Total, IJA and RJA scores were significantly and positively correlated with ESCS RJA (ps < .01; see Table 1). In addition, PICS IJA scores were significantly associated with ESCS IBR scores (p < .05). Additional analyses indicated that Total Score on the PICS was significantly and positively correlated with both receptive and expressive language scores on the PLS-4 and the MSEL (ps < .05; see Table 2). Language scores were strongly correlated with PICS IJA and RJA scores (ps < .01) but not IBR scores.
Conclusions: Taken together with previous reports of strong psychometric properties (Ghilain et al., 2014), findings suggests that the PICS is a valid tool for measuring joint attention skills in preschool-aged children with ASD. Future research examining the PICS' ability to distinguish between children with and without ASD may be useful in clarifying its role in screening and/or treatment efforts.