Facial Expressions Study
We suspect that some minimally verbal autistic children also have a motor speech disorder called “childhood apraxia of speech” or CAS. If this is so, does CAS treatment, appropriately modified for minimally verbal autistic children, improve their speech? Instead of being primarily drill-based, therapy will be embedded in a social, play-based context to provide ecologically valid feedback and help children generalize their skills as much as possible. We’re looking for up to 20 children with ASD and CAS, between the ages of 5 and 18, to participate.
1. Child meets criteria for ASD on a gold-standard diagnostic instrument (can submit documentation of previous ADOS assessment).
2. Minimally verbal status (child spontaneously, non-imitatively produces no more than 20 different words, and no multi-word phrases, during a language sample).
3. Meets criteria for CAS by showing at least 5 signs of CAS during language sample and speech imitation tasks.
4. The ability to correctly repeat at least two syllables.
5. The child lives in a primarily English-speaking environment (i.e., is exposed to at least 50% English).
1. Poorly controlled seizure disorder.
2. Other factors, such as blindness or deafness, that might contribute to a child’s minimally verbal status.
3. The child lives in an environment where English is not the primary language.
4. Behavioral challenges that make it impossible for the child to participate in the study.
5. If child is eligible for COVID-19 vaccine and has not received at least the first dose.
Prospective participants will be assessed in our lab in Charlestown, MA with a variety of measures that document their speech, language, social, and nonverbal IQ skills. During the speech tasks only (estimated to last approximately 30 minutes), children will wear reflective markers, 2-3 millimeters in size, on their faces. Our multiple camera system will track the movements of these markers as children attempt to repeat a series of syllables and simple words. Baseline assessments are conservatively estimated to last approximately 4 hours, scheduled as two 2-hour visits. All assessments will be audio- and videotaped for later analysis.
Treatment will consist of 15 hour-long sessions over 3 weeks and may take place in our lab or at a child’s home or school, and will be video- and audio-recorded for later analysis. Practice will occur in a naturalistic, developmentally-informed framework, which involves embedding speech tasks within social interactions organized around play or social activities that are matched to the child’s developmental level and that incorporate the child’s target words. After treatment is completed, children will come back to the lab to have their speech production analyzed, using the same procedures as baseline.
For their time, participants will receive $50 for completion of the baseline testing and $100 upon completion of the post-treatment testing.
email : SPANLab@mghihp.edu