Researchers Find a Way to Help People With Autism Spectrum Disorder Communicate

In Education

A study by the Pennsylvania State College of Education has discovered that augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), which uses videos, can help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) communicate. This technology gives them built-in communications prompts, discussion topics, and relevant vocabulary.

People with ASD could have difficulty communicating

This study comes at a crucial time as people with ASD have difficulty communicating with others. Those who have limited speech have an even harder time.

According to an assistant teaching professor in special Ed, Salena Babb, many students with complex communication problems and autism could be placed next to their peers in class. However, there is still little interaction between them. Babb views this as an issue because caregivers and teachers want to foster communication among children with ASD.

Babb is the co-author of the study. The researchers titled it Two Friends Spending Time Together: The Impact of Video Visual Scene Displays on Peer Social Interactions for Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder. They published the paper in the journal Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools.

People with ASD struggle in particular areas of communication 

The researchers point out that ASD adolescents have issues in specific areas of communication. These are making relevant conversational turns during a conversation, using the correct vocabulary when needed, and sharing information on an upcoming or past event. As a result, they struggle with basic communication.

David McNaughton, another study co-author and a professor of special education, adds that people with autism are five times more likely to report feeling lonely. For this reason, teaching them to communicate is vital.

Other studies have shown that about 30% of children with ASD don’t learn speech by age 9. These children continue to have communication challenges when they become adolescents and adults.

Because of their communications problems, adolescents with ASD experience challenges in recreational, vocational, and educational activities. This results in depression and isolation.

Using video visual scene display (VSD), the team was able to help people with ASD communicate with others. It also gave them a supported and clear context for sharing, which was usually a challenge.

Moreover, the communication format that the researchers used made it possible to have natural conversations, which both parties enjoyed instead of focusing on the pictures.

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