Teaching Young Children with Autism To Talk

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Frequent functional spoken communication is a common goal for young children with autism. We propose that the number of different nonimitative, referential, conventional, and communicative words used in a language sample is a reasonable measure of the behavior we wish to increase in such children. We review our own and others' studies focusing on young (i.e., 2 to 3 years old) children with autism to provide a rationale for including object play and nonverbal communication as potentially important treatment goals. Children who are not yet fluent in object play and nonverbal communication may need to improve these skills to facilitate the implementation and uptake of direct language therapy. Past research has shown that object play, nonverbal communication, and useful speech all are influenced by various types of interventions in young children with autism.

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