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Language Development in Preschoolers with ASD: A Comparison of Outcomes Across Educational Settings

Friday, 3 May 2013: 09:00-13:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
J. Atick1, C. S. Ghilain2, A. Gutierrez3 and M. Alessandri4, (1)University of Miami, Miami, FL, (2)5665 Ponce De Leon Blvd., University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, (3)Psychology, Florida International University, Miami, FL, (4)Psychology and Pediatrics, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL
Background: Impairments in language in children with ASD are of particular interest to researchers because these skills have been shown to be strong predictors of overall ASD outcomes (Sztmari, Bryson, Boyle, Streiner, & Duku, 2003). When considering language development in the school environment, little is known about the difference in language gains between self-contained and inclusive preschool classrooms (Harris, Handleman, Kristoff, Bass & Gordon, 1990).

Objectives: This study seeks to determine the differences in language gains between self-contained and inclusive classrooms across a school year in preschool children with ASD.

Methods: This study is an extension of a larger, multi-site study comparing the efficacy of preschool educational programs for children with ASD. Children were administered the Preschool Language Scale, Fourth Edition (PLS-4) in order to measure their language functioning at both the beginning (PRE) and end (POST)of the school year. The data collected from this study were used to create language gain scores for Auditory Comprehension, Expressive Communication, and Total Language across educational settings (i.e. self-contained and inclusive preschool classrooms).

Results: No significant differences in language gains were found between the two classroom types on Auditory Comprehension (t (184) = -.645, p = .513). However, in terms of Expressive Language, a significant difference in language gains was found (t (186) = -2.295, p = .027) when comparing self-contained versus inclusive classroom. Total Language gains were also statistically significantly different across classroom type (t (186) =-.645, p= .035).

Conclusions: Average differences of children’s language gains between self-contained versus inclusive classrooms were demonstrated in Expressive Communication and Total Language from the beginning of the school year to the end, with children in inclusive classrooms demonstrating greater language gains. Although language gains were made in all classrooms, it is important for future research to identify specific classroom characteristics (e.g., student:teacher ratios; ratio of typically-developing students to students with ASD; etc.) that promote increased gains in child language development.

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