Collections > Scholarly Posters and Presentations > Interventions for Minimally Verbal School-Aged Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review

Research Questions: For minimally verbal school-aged children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, what intervention techniques have evidence of efficacy in improving communication? Background The diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been on the rise in recent years, with a prevalence as high as 1 in 45 children. Currently, the vast majority of research on children with ASD is focused on the preschool-age population and higher-functioning older children. Despite the fact that 25-30% of children with ASD remain minimally verbal through school-age, research in the speech-language field on treatment methods for this subset of children is lacking. In this paper, we aim to assess the quality and outcomes of the literature on this topic through a systematic review of current research on intervention strategies for minimally verbal children between 5-17 years old. We examined the definitions of minimally-verbal and low-functioning in the ASD population, as well as evidence for intervention efficacy in promoting communication. Methods In this systematic review, a comprehensive literature search was conducted in three databases -- PsycInfo, PubMed and CINAHL. This search yielded 485 articles published between January 1996 and January 2017. Titles, abstracts, and/or full-texts were independently assessed by two reviewers in order to determine inclusion, and ultimately 15 articles fit the inclusion criteria for this study. Published appraisal tools were used by two independent reviewers in order to determine the quality of the 15 articles in this review. Anticipated Results Of the 15 articles in this systematic review, 8 had small single-subject designs. Of the articles remaining, 5 were randomized controlled trials and 2 were systematic reviews. It is anticipated that there will be moderate support for the use of alternative and augmentative communication, such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), for school-aged children who remain minimally verbal. Further details about the results will be available when analyses are completed. Discussion The current review supports the continued need for further research investigating the most efficacious communication interventions for minimally verbal school-aged children with ASD. While there has been a surge in research over the past 6 years addressing this gap in the literature, many studies have been small and yielded weak results.