Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 59, 1133–1145.
Abstract: Purpose: This study was conducted to investigate the effectiveness of a social intervention that integrates peer-mediated approaches and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
Method: Effects were evaluated using a series of A-B designs replicated across 4 children with severe autism and limited verbal skills. Seven peers without disabilities were trained to use PECS and facilitative social skills. Measures of changes included rates of communication behaviors, modes, functions, and engagement.
Results: Outcomes revealed an intervention effect for 1 child with autism, and this effect was replicated across 3 other children. All children improved in peer-directed communication, with greater increases for 2 children during snack time. For each child with autism, the primary communication behavior was to initiate with picture symbols to request; the peer’s primary communication was to respond. Two children increased communicative functions to comment and to share, and all 4 children showed improved social engagement. All peers increased their communication with the children with autism.
Conclusions: These findings add to the limited research on the benefits of teaching typically developing peers to be responsive listeners to preschoolers with autism by learning to use PECS. These results invite further investigation of teaching peers other augmentative and alternative communication approaches and how to increase children’s communication with peers for different purposes.