Researcher helps give children with autism the chance to communicate

May 14, 2013, Victoria University

Research by Victoria University PhD education graduand Larah van der Meer highlights the importance of understanding the communication preferences of children with developmental disabilities such as autism.

Larah's study investigated ways of teaching alternative methods to children with autism and related developmental disabilities, who don't use speech.

Her research has led to a new approach for assessing children's communication preferences, which could help improve treatment outcomes.

Part of Larah's study involved looking at individual children's preferences for using specific communication systems, and measuring the effect these had on developing their communication skills.

Eight children from Wellington and four from Nijmegen, in The Netherlands, took part in the study, learning how to ask for snacks and toys using three alternatives to speech: , pointing to or exchanging pictures, and using new speech-generating technology.

In her study, Larah used an equipped with a new speech-generating software programme. She found that eight of the children in the study preferred to use the speech-generating technology to communicate.

Larah's results also showed that children were better at learning and maintaining the communication skills when using their preferred communication option.

"Giving children the opportunity to choose their preferred type of communication can be viewed as promoting an important sense of self-determination, which might also increase their progress in learning to communicate," says Larah.

"It's exciting because the results are providing demonstrating the effectiveness of new technologies, such as iPads loaded with speech-generating software, as alternative communication options for children with autism."

To ensure that all the who took part in her research could continue in their communication development after completing the study, Larah fundraised to buy an iPad for one of her research participants, Izack Halvorson. Larah describes him as a charismatic young boy who has the desire to communicate, but whose speech is mostly unintelligible.

The iPad proved to be Izack's preferred mode of communication. Amongst teaching a range of communication skills, Larah worked with Izack's family to use the iPad to take photos of his friends, family, and teachers, and programmed the software so he can touch the photos and create voice-output with individualised greetings for each of the people important to him.

"It really is incredible. The iPad has given him the gift of being able to express himself and be understood by others for the first time," says Larah.

Explore further: New hope for Autistic children who never learn to speak

Related Stories

New hope for Autistic children who never learn to speak

April 24, 2013
An Autistica consultation published this month found that 24% of children with autism were non-verbal or minimally verbal, and it is known that these problems can persist into adulthood. Professionals have long attempted ...

Do disruptions in brain communication have a role in autism?

March 21, 2013
A new study of patterns of brain communication in toddlers with autism shows evidence of aberrant neural communication even at this relatively early stage of brain development. The results are presented in an article in Brain ...

ECHOES: Technology use in the classroom helps autistic children communicate

November 29, 2012
The use of technology in the classroom is nothing new, but Topcliffe Primary School in Birmingham is breaking new ground by using technology to help pupils with autism communicate more effectively.

Children with autism benefit from early, intensive therapy

September 28, 2011
A primary characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is impairments in social-communication skills. Children and adolescents with social-communication problems face difficulty understanding, interacting and relating ...

Robots being used as classroom buddies for children with autism

November 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Robots are being used as classroom buddies for children with autism in a groundbreaking initiative that aims to improve social interaction and communication.

Giving a voice to kids with Down syndrome

February 25, 2013
Researchers from the University of Alberta are helping children with Down syndrome who stutter find their voice and speak with ease.

Recommended for you

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Being bilingual may help autistic children

January 16, 2018
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have a hard time switching gears from one task to another. But being bilingual may actually make it a bit easier for them to do so, according to a new study which was recently ...

No rise in autism in US in past three years: study

January 2, 2018
After more than a decade of steady increases in the rate of children diagnosed with autism in the United States, the rate has plateaued in the past three years, researchers said Tuesday.

Autism therapy: Brain stimulation restores social behavior in mice

December 13, 2017
Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

Social phobia linked to autism and schizophrenia

December 11, 2017
New Swinburne research shows that people who find social situations difficult tend to have similar brain responses to those with schizophrenia or autism.

Odors that carry social cues seem to affect volunteers on the autism spectrum differently

November 27, 2017
Autism typically involves the inability to read social cues. We most often associate this with visual difficulty in interpreting facial expression, but new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests that the sense ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sinister1811
3 / 5 (2) May 14, 2013
Big friggin' woop. And still no closer to a cure.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.