International Meeting for Autism Research: Contrasting Language Environments of Four Children with Autism: Home and Preschool

Contrasting Language Environments of Four Children with Autism: Home and Preschool

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
9:00 AM
E. Sliwkanich1, V. Smith2 and S. Patterson2, (1)Sherwood Park, AB, Canada, (2)University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
Background: Enrolment in preschool programs has increased significantly in the past decade resulting in over half of preschool aged children attending a program (Stahmer & Carter, 2005). Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are no exception to this increase especially with a growing number of studies citing the benefits of integrating children with ASD into the preschool classroom (e.g., Stahmer & Ingersoll, 2004). Providing children with a language rich experience is one of the characteristics of preschool programs that are more effective in producing long-lasting benefits for children with disabilities (Stahmer & Carter, 2005). Studies examining preschool classrooms suggest that children are exposed to moderate levels of meaningful, child-focused language and specialized training for staff is required in order to provide rich language environments (Turnbull, Anthony, Justice, & Bowles, 2009). However, in order to provide this specialized training for preschool staff that support children with ASD, we need to know more about the language opportunities that exist for these children in preschool settings and those that exist in the home. The purpose of the present study is to examine the language and interaction that children with ASD are exposed to throughout their day by utilizing a digital language processor (DLP).

Objectives: The main objectives of this study were to: (1) examine the frequency of language children with ASD are exposed to at preschool as compared to at home, and (2) determine whether the frequency of interactions these children engage in are similar between the home and preschool environments.

Methods: Four toddlers with ASD (age 37-40m) were recruited from a local agency. Language and interaction data was collected over three sessions. The DLP was utilized to capture audio data within each child’s preschool and home settings. Computer software was then used to identify and contrast the three hours of data with the most child language in each setting, examining the frequency of: (a) the duration and frequency of adult language (AW) in the child’s immediate environment were exposed to; (b) duration and frequency of child vocalizations (CV); (c) duration and frequency of adult-child communicative interactions (ACI).

Results: Each of the four children demonstrated differences in developmental age (DA 8-30m). Two of the four children experienced higher rates of adult language exposure at home (three times higher at home as compared to preschool), for the other two children AW exposure was roughly equivalent. Three of the four children engaged in more ACI at home (range 58-88 per hour contrasted to 18-38 per hour). One child vocalized more at home, for the other three children total vocalizations were roughly equivalent.

Conclusions: It appears from this contrast of home and preschool language environments that some children with autism may experience more frequent exposure to language and interaction opportunities with adults at home than at preschool. While this data set is small and these results are preliminary, these data support the idea that preschool staff may benefit from specialized training to improve language-learning opportunities for children with ASD who attend preschool programs.

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