Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 418–431 | Cite as

Comparing Spoken Language Treatments for Minimally Verbal Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Rhea Paul
  • Daniel Campbell
  • Kimberly Gilbert
  • Ioanna Tsiouri
Original Paper


Preschoolers with severe autism and minimal speech were assigned either a discrete trial or a naturalistic language treatment, and parents of all participants also received parent responsiveness training. After 12 weeks, both groups showed comparable improvement in number of spoken words produced, on average. Approximately half the children in each group achieved benchmarks for the first stage of functional spoken language development, as defined by Tager-Flusberg et al. (J Speech Lang Hear Res, 52: 643–652, 2009). Analyses of moderators of treatment suggest that joint attention moderates response to both treatments, and children with better receptive language pre-treatment do better with the naturalistic method, while those with lower receptive language show better response to the discrete trial treatment. The implications of these findings are discussed.


Autism Language Treatment Intervention Communication Speech 



This research was supported by the Autism Speaks Foundation, the Autism Science Foundation, and MidCareer Grant K24 HD045576 from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders. We wish to thank Prof. Paul Yoder for guiding us in the use of moderator analyses. Many clinicians contributed to this research through their work with the participants, including Elizabeth Schoen, Megan Lyons Moira Lewis, Sarita Austin, Brittany Butler, and Maysa Akbar. We also wish to thank the administration and faculty of the Skane School in Bridgeport, CT and Helene Grant School in New Haven, CT for their invaluable help. Finally, we extend our gratitude to the children and families who participated in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rhea Paul
    • 2
  • Daniel Campbell
    • 1
  • Kimberly Gilbert
    • 3
  • Ioanna Tsiouri
    • 4
  1. 1.Yale Child Study CenterNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Speech-Language Pathology, College of Health ProfessionsSacred Heart UniversityFairfieldUSA
  3. 3.Hofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA
  4. 4.Larisa University HospitalLarisaGreece

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