Objectives: The current study explores the social-communication and shared attention skills of a group of preschoolers with autism assessed using two naturalistic observation measures; a clinic-based parent-child play interaction, and a school-based interaction with teacher and peers.
Methods: Participants were 41 preschoolers with Autistic Disorder involved in the Preschool Autism Communication Trial (PACT). Assessment of parent-child interaction was conducted at the clinic as part of PACT and children were subsequently seen at school/nursery, in small-group interaction with a teacher and peers. Rates of child initiations of communication and responses to others’ bids were compared across the two assessments, as were durations of their engagement in shared attention with others.
Results: Preliminary analysis suggests significant association of child initiating behaviours across the parent- and school-based interactions. By contrast, association of child response behaviours across contexts appears weaker. More detailed analysis of sub-functions of communication act and duration of engagement in shared attention are underway.
Conclusions: Consistencies and differences in behaviours across the parent- and school-based interaction settings will speak to the generalisability of social-communication skills in children with autism. Contextual factors varying across different naturalistic settings may be highlighted as facilitative or hindering of the communication and interaction skills of these preschoolers.
Keywords: Autism, Preschool, Social Communication, Shared Attention, Naturalistic Observation