In this week’s edition, we summarize articles about the efficacy of social communication interventions for young children with ASD, the influence of language context on repetitive speech use in children with ASD, and using patient-reported internal changes as a measure of intervention outcomes.
Efficacy of focused social and communication intervention practices for young children with autism spectrum disorder: A meta-analysis
Many autism interventions target early social communication, skills such as joint attention and imitation. These researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 41 social communication intervention studies for children with autism under the age of six years old. They found medium, significant effects on child use of eye contact, gestures, play, joint attention, and imitation. The results also showed that the younger children were at the beginning of intervention, the greater the effect of the intervention. These results suggest that earlier intervention may be more effective than later intervention. Future research should analyze which specific interventions resulted in positive outcomes. Accessibility of these interventions to providers should be considered as well.
The Influence of Language Context on Repetitive Speech Use in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder
The use of repetitive speech is common in individuals with autism, but little is known about factors that increase or decrease its use. Four categories of repetitive speech (delayed echolalia, immediate echolalia, vocal stereotypy, verbal stereotypy) were evaluated in 11 school-aged children with autism. The researchers measured speech during play and storytelling activities to determine if there were specific contexts during which repetitive speech would occur more frequently. They found that immediate echolalia was the most common type of repetitive speech, and that it was used significantly less frequently during storytelling tasks than during play. Due to the small sample size, more research is necessary to draw conclusions about the effects of storytelling on use of repetitive speech.
Patient-Reported Outcomes and Evidence-Based Practice in Speech-Language Pathology
Speech-language pathologists use many measures to evaluate the effectiveness of therapy. However, these measures often assess changes that are externally observable rather than considering patients’ internal changes, such as effort and confidence. These authors argue that including patient-reported outcome measures (“PROMs”) is important for fully evaluating treatment effects. It may also aid in documenting patients’ participation in daily life and relative skill level compared to others with the same disorder. Although PROMs for children do exist, child language and cognitive skills must be evaluated to determine whether child or caregiver report should be used on these measures. Overall, this study suggests that more research into the development and use of PROMs may improve patient outcomes and help establish evidence-based practices in the field of speech-language pathology.