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Early social communication: the effectiveness of small group intervention for pre-school children with autism spectrum disorder

Czerniewska, PR; (2016) Early social communication: the effectiveness of small group intervention for pre-school children with autism spectrum disorder. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Children with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder have difficulties with social communication and interaction and with regulating their behaviour. These core impairments in sociability affect their experiences as they enter educational settings. Children are now diagnosed with ASD as early as 2-3 years allowing early intervention that targets communication skills and increases opportunities for social interaction. Early intervention studies focussing on imitation and joint attention have demonstrated positive effects. Most have been in specialist preschools. Surprisingly, given that children need to communicate with peers, few studies have looked at the effectiveness of interventions in small groups. This project evaluates a small group intervention in non-specialist preschools which aims to develop social interaction abilities through structured play routines with peers. The project uses a single subject multiple-baseline-across-subjects experimental design. Four children with ASD aged 30-40 months were observed during preschool activities. Three other children - one neurotypical, one with ASD, and one with language delay - were observed for comparison. In Study One, the target children joined a specialist social communication group following staff training. The children’s social communication pre- and post- intervention was compared in four conditions. Study Two analysed the interaction strategies used by the preschool staff to determine if the training and intervention affected the ways they supported the target children. Study Three focussed on the social referencing of the target and comparison children analysing changes in the number of looks towards adults and peers following intervention. During the intervention there was little evidence of change in the children’s social interaction levels across the six sessions. The comparison of social communication skills pre- and post-intervention was difficult to make as the context of the observations varied considerably between sessions. The effect of training on practitioner interactive styles was also difficult to assess as the nominated staff member working with the child varied from session to session. The study raises questions about the value of interventions over such a short duration – duration that is common practice for Speech and Language Therapists in existing clinical services. The study also highlights the practical difficulties faced when attempting to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention in the context of the daily routine of a child’s regular preschool.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Early social communication: the effectiveness of small group intervention for pre-school children with autism spectrum disorder
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1513244
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