Clinician Proposed Predictors of Spoken Language Outcomes for Minimally Verbal Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Abstract

Our aim was to explore insights from clinical practice that may inform efforts to understand and account for factors that predict spoken language outcomes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder who use minimal verbal language. We used a qualitative design involving three focus groups with 14 speech pathologists to explore their views and experiences. Using the Framework Method of analysis, we identified 9 themes accounting for 183 different participant references to potential factors. Participants highlighted the relevance of clusters of fine-grained social, communication, and learning behaviours, including novel insights into prelinguistic vocal behaviours. The participants suggested the potential value of dynamic assessment in predicting spoken language outcomes. The findings can inform efforts to developing clinically relevant methods for predicting children’s communication outcomes.

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Acknowledgments

We kindly thank the clinicians who participated in this research. This research was supported by a grant from the Australian Government Department of Social Services and the study was conducted using the infrastructure and resources of the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres (ASLECCs) in Queensland (AEIOU Nathan ASELCC and Gold Coast Centre), Victoria (Margot Prior ASELCC), New South Wales (KU Marcia Burgess ASELCC), Tasmania (St Giles ASELCC), South Australia (Anglicare Daphne Street ASELCC), and Western Australia (Autism Association of Western Australia ASELCC). The ASELCCs were established through funding from the Department of Social Services. David Trembath was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council ECR Fellowship.

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DT, MT, RS, and TC led the conceptualisation of the study. All authors contributed to aspects of study design, planning, and data acquisition. DT, MT, and RS carried out the analyses with all authors contributing to interpretation of the data within the manuscript. All authors contributed to manuscript drafts, provided intellectual input, approved the final version of the manuscript, and agree to be accountable for the work.

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Correspondence to David Trembath.

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The study received ethical clearances from the Human Ethics Committees at Griffith University, La Trobe University, The University of New South Wales, and The University of Tasmania.

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Trembath, D., Sutherland, R., Caithness, T. et al. Clinician Proposed Predictors of Spoken Language Outcomes for Minimally Verbal Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 564–575 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04550-z

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Keywords

  • Autism
  • Communication
  • Minimally verbal
  • Speech pathology
  • Predictor