Researcher helps give children with autism the chance to communicate

May 14, 2013

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 ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Autism biomarker seen as boon for new treatments

January 11, 2017

Researchers at the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment have identified a signature brain-wave pattern for children with autism spectrum disorder related to a genetic condition known as Dup15q syndrome. The research ...

Lab confirms vitamin D link to autism traits

December 14, 2016

Researchers at The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute have found a link between vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy and increased autism traits.

Neuromotor problems at the core of autism, study says

December 12, 2016

Rutgers neuroscientists have established that problems controlling bodily movements are at the core of autism spectrum disorders and that the use of psychotropic medications to treat autism in children often makes such neuromotor ...

Mutations in life's 'essential genes' tied to autism

December 12, 2016

Genes known to be essential to life—the ones humans need to survive and thrive in the womb—also play a critical role in the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), suggests a new study from Penn Medicine geneticists ...

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.