According to a new study at the Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development, minimally verbal children with autism can learn to speak later than previously thought.
The study, completed in 2013, worked with 61 children with autism, ages 5 to 8, using speech-generating software on computer tablets to communicate. Researchers found that in addition to touching symbols on the tablets to generate speech, the children were encouraged to audibly verbalize the words themselves.
“For some parents, it was the first time they’d been able to converse with their children,” said the study's lead investigator, Ann Kaiser.
For years, Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices have been used to enhance, expand and develop communication skills for people with autism; from picture card exchange systems to portable word processors and speech-generating talk boxes.
Now with the increasing ubiquity of portable information technology, modern hand-held devices such as the iPad may offer a more accessible and affordable way to help minimally verbal children with autism to communicate.
The study at Vanderbilt Peabody College was funded by Autism Speaks, and conducted in cooperation with the University of California–Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins University. It will be published in 2014.