Examining Mediators of an Adaptive Communication Intervention for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Objectives: The objective of the current study is to examine how changes in foundational communication skills mediated the outcomes of an adaptive communication intervention by asking the following question: Do joint attention initiations, receptive language ability, imitation skill, and SGD proficiency mediate the effect of group assignment on social communication outcomes?
Methods: Data for this analysis are from a RCT (R40MC27707). Seventy-three children with ASD were randomly assigned to either a 36-session intervention combining DTT and J-EMT including an SGD or a business as usual control group. The dependent variable, defined as the total number of social communicative utterances, was measured in a 20-min language sample with an unfamiliar assessor. The putative mediators were measured as follows: initiating joint attention (IJA) was measured from the Early Social Communication Scales (ESCS; Mundy et al., 2003); receptive language was measured from the auditory comprehension subscale of PLS-5 (Zimmerman, et al., 2011); verbal imitation was measured as the number of attempted consonants during the Profiles of Early Expressive Phonology (PEEPS; Williams & Stoel-Gammon, 2014); SGD proficiency was measured as the size of visual field from which the child is able to identify an object on the SGD. Mediators were measured at posttest; the dependent variable was measured 2-months following posttest.
Results: Baseline characteristics are presented in Table 1. There were no significant between-group differences on relevant variables at pretest. Coding and analysis for all time-points are currently 80% complete. Mediation analyses will be used to examine the underlying mechanism driving the relationship between the independent variable (group assignment) and dependent variable (social communicative utterances; Hayes, 2009).
Conclusions: Findings of this study will identify foundational skills that mediate language and communication outcomes for preschooler-aged children with ASD who are at risk for becoming minimally verbal. These findings may lay the foundation for developing and testing a decision-making framework for early intervention targets, including establishing criterion levels of behavior change on specific malleable factors required to benefit from interventions based in naturalistic principles.
See more of: Interventions - Non-pharmacologic - Preschool & Infant