Curriculum for Teaching Conversation Skills

Müller, E., Cannon, L. R., Kornblum, C., Clark, J., & Powers, M. (2016). Description and preliminary evaluation of a curriculum for teaching conversational skills to children with high-functioning autism and other social cognition challenges. Language, Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 1-18.

Purpose: The purpose of this clinical focus article is to provide (a) a detailed description of a school based intervention designed to teach children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASDs) and other social cognition challenges both the how and the why of conversation and (b) a preliminary evaluation of program outcomes. Method: This pilot study involved (a) qualitative and quantitative analysis of video footage of participants' conversational skills at baseline, during intervention, and post-intervention; (b) interviews with participants' speech-language pathologist (third author) about individual participant progress; and (c) interviews with instructors responsible for implementing the curriculum regarding overall program effectiveness. Participants were four elementary-aged children with HF-ASDs and other social cognition challenges with deficits in expressive language and auditory processing and comprehension. Results: Analyses of video-recorded footage indicated increases for all four participants in terms of peer-directed interactions, questions asked, use Ivymount: Publications, 2016 of wh-words to introduce new topics and/or extend conversation on existing topics, and attempts at conversational repair. Three participants also demonstrated increased use of attention-gaining behaviors. Qualitative analysis of transcripts, as well as in-depth interviews with the participants' speech-language pathologist and other program instructors, supported these findings. Conclusions Preliminary findings from this pilot study suggest that providing comprehensive instruction in many of the basic components required for successful conversation, including explanations for why these components are necessary, may be a promising means of teaching children with HF-ASDs and other social cognition challenges to engage in successful peer-to-peer conversation.

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