Exploring predictors of response to a peer-mediated communication intervention for minimally verbal preschoolers with ASD

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The main goal of this project is to determine what role early social skills play in predicting children’s success following a Stay-Play-Talk with iPad peer-mediated intervention. Determining behaviors that predict gains in communication with peers may shed light on why peer-mediated interventions are more effective for some children with ASD than others, and how to individualize peer strategies to optimize communication outcomes for a range of children. Early skills we believe may predict communication success with peers include how often they communicate in baseline, social attention (e.g., looking at another person’s face or activity they are engaged in) and interest in peers (e.g., engaging in joint attention and imitating peers). A second goal is to determine the influence of the assessment context on child outcomes by observing child behaviors with peers in a structured play assessment, natural classroom settings (e.g., snack and free play), and orientation to people and objects during an eye-tracking assessment.  

The peer-mediated intervention is an evidence-based preschool program called Stay-Play-Talk with iPad, that Dr. Bourque has developed and examined over the past 10 years. Peers are taught to be responsive social partners and all children are taught to use an iPad with voice output app as a speech-generating device to communicate during preferred play and social routines. The grant is moving into the second year, and recruitment for the Fall and Spring intervention groups is open. Up to 20 children will be recruited to participate in the next school year. Trained research staff provide the intervention, and school staff are welcome to observe and learn the communication intervention strategies.  

Project Details

  • Primary Investigator: Kathy Bourque

  • Co-Principal Investigator: Brenda Salley

  • Project start Date: 08/01/2021

  • Project finish Date: 06/30/2023




  • Award Number: R21DC019215

Kathy Thiemann-BourqueBrenda SalleyAutism and other developmental disabilitiesSocial behavioral successprojects