International Meeting for Autism Research: Efficacy of the Language for Learning Curriculum with Children Diagnosed with ASD

Efficacy of the Language for Learning Curriculum with Children Diagnosed with ASD

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
C. N. Bowen, R. Peterman and M. A. Shillingsburg, Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, & Emory School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA
Background: Language is often significantly impaired in children with ASD and has been identified as one of the most common concerns of their parents.  Given the staggering increases in the prevalence of ASD, the school is often a primary provider of intervention. Research is needed to help identify widely accessible, easy to implement, effective interventions for children with ASD being served in schools.  Direct Instruction (DI), is an empirically-based instructional program that offers a comprehensive, widely accessible intervention method that is ideal for easy implementation by teachers and paraprofessionals.  Research has provided empirical support towards the effectiveness of DI programs in teaching academic skills to children across grades (Becker & Gersten, 1982; Weisberg, 1988), socioeconomic backgrounds (Gersten & Carnin, 1984; Gersten, Darch, & Gleason, 1988), and some disabilities (Horner & Albin, 1988).  Only two studies have evaluated the use of DI with children with autism, and only one study has evaluated the DI Language for Learning curriculum (Ganz & Flores, 2009).  Both studies provided positive outcomes of the curriculum for children with ASD. 

Objectives: The primary objective was to evaluate the efficacy of the Language for Learning Direct Instruction curriculum to improve language skills of children with ASD when conducted in a one-to-one teaching arrangement. 

Methods: Participant’s ages ranged from 4 years to 12 years. Twenty-five children with a diagnosis of ASD participated. Each participant was semi-randomly assigned to one of three groups.  All three groups received treatment, which was implemented across the three groups sequentially. If the participant was not currently receiving treatment s/he served as a control. Procedures included in the study were directed by the Language for Learning Teacher’s Manual, with a few additional modifications. Data were collected on each participant’s performance during pre-, post-, and follow-up testing. Therefore, testing was administered at Time, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Results: We compared the pre- and post-test scores to determine change in responding before and after treatment for each group. Additionally, pre-tests were completed prior to intervention by the participants serving as waitlist controls to assess for maturation effects. Statistical analyses included a one-way ANOVA test to compare baseline language skills across the three study groups.  Paired-sample t-tests were used to compare pre- and post-intervention language acquisition scores within each of the three groups.  Finally, one-way ANOVAs and post-hoc tests were conducted to compare language acquisition skills across the three groups within each study time period. Results indicate no differences across the three study groups in baseline language skills.  For each group, language skills immediately following post-intervention were significantly higher than pre-intervention scores.  Follow-test scores remained substantially higher than pre-intervention up to 6-8 months following intervention. 

Conclusions: Approximately 36-40 total hours of intervention was provided per child over the course of 3-4 months and demonstrates the utility of the Direct Instruction Language for Learning curriculum.  This curriculum is easy to implement and widely-accessible to school personnel.

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