Social Communication and Parent Verbal Responsiveness Across Interaction Contexts in Toddlers on the Autism Spectrum



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Journal Article

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American journal of speech-language pathology





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PURPOSE: Interactions with caregivers during the ordinary activities that occur as families go about their everyday lives are critical to supporting children's acquisition of social communication and language skills. The purpose of this study was to examine child communication and parent verbal responsiveness across interaction contexts in 211 children (Mage= 20 months) on the autism spectrum (n = 121), with developmental delay (n = 46), or with typical development (n = 44). METHOD: Families participated in up to eight activities during an hour-long, video-recorded home observation. We tested differences in the strength of associations between diagnostic group and interaction context using linear mixed-effects models, with child rate per minute of communication and proportions of parent follow-in comments and directives as outcome variables. Child communicative functions expressed across contexts were also examined. RESULTS: Children across groups communicated at significantly higher rates per minute during book sharing and play with people compared to other interaction contexts. Most child communication was for the function of joint attention during book sharing, for social interaction during play with people, and for behavior regulation during necessary activities such as family chores and meals. On average, parents of children responded using proportionally more follow-in comments during book sharing and play compared to necessary activities, during which parents used more follow-in directives. CONCLUSION: Results provide a glimpse into the dyadic communication that may occur within everyday activities at home, which supports the need for future intervention research and may aid clinicians seeking to identify activities that serve as important contexts for intervention.

Open Access