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An exploratory investigation of the impact of varying communicative input on the performance of students with autism

Rochelle Caira Matthews-Somerville, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study explored the impact of varying the form of input on the task performance during choice-making of three, nonsymbolic students with autism. Multi-modal indicators including latency to make a choice, acceptance and rejection of choices, frequency of independent responses, affect, and conventionality of choice behaviors, were used to evaluate the impact of augmenting input. An alternating treatment design utilizing three conditions (verbal, visual, simultaneous) were used. In the verbal condition, choices were presented in a verbal mode only. In the visual condition, choices were presented using digital photos. In the simultaneous condition, choices were presented simultaneously with digital photos plus verbal. Results of the study showed that all students performed notably better when presented with choices in the two conditions that utilized visual modes; however, only small differences were observed between those conditions. This supports previous research findings that students with ASD perform more accurately and with quicker response rates to simultaneous input rather than spoken input alone (Garfinkle & Bauer, 1998; Quill & Grant, 1992). Nathaniel's performance on latency and independent responses were indistinguishable in the visual and simultaneous conditions and no differences were found on the measure of acceptance of choice, and conventionality of choice behavior across conditions. Hannah's performance on the measure of latency showed quicker rates of latency in the simultaneous condition and she showed decreases in latency in the visual condition as the study progressed. Hannah also exhibited the highest frequency of independent responses and acceptance of choices during the simultaneous condition, but showed no differences in affect. No differences were found in affect for any of the students across conditions. Generally, the visual and simultaneous condition seemed to have some benefit over a verbal mode alone. Differentiating the beneficial effect of one mode over the other, discerning the critical elements that make choice-making beneficial, and deciphering how individual characteristics impact the value of augmenting input is discussed for future research. ^

Subject Area

Education, Special

Recommended Citation

Matthews-Somerville, Rochelle Caira, "An exploratory investigation of the impact of varying communicative input on the performance of students with autism" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3098173.