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Transactions Within a Classroom-Based AAC Intervention Targeting Preschool Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Mixed-Methods Investigation

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This study examined the changes in the communication skills of preschool students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that resulted from an intervention that featured three evidence-based, transactional approaches to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) intervention: (a) attributing communicative meaning to student behaviours; (b) providing aided language input; and (c) focusing on graphic symbols representing core vocabulary. Using a mixed-methods design with multiple sources of data (i.e., observation field notes, IEPs, and direct communication assessment), the study was conducted in three classrooms with 6 educators and 13 preschool students with ASD. The purpose was to explore interaction patterns between educators and students while also analyzing improvements in student communication as measured by the Communication Matrix. The results point to a transactional relationship between educators’ and students’ communication across the three classrooms. This group of preschool students with ASD learned to use abstract graphic symbols representing core vocabulary to request as a result of educators’ focus on this requesting. A number of students demonstrated growth in use of non-symbolic communication for social interaction and information sharing as a result of educators’ increased use of aided language input.

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