Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often have significant speech deficits, or complex communication needs. People with complex communication needs frequently reach adulthood without sufficient tools to communicate effectively and require instruction in the use of augmentative and alternative communication. Because communication is ubiquitous, best practice in augmentative and alternative communication instruction involves primary communication partners, such as caregivers. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the use of a speech generating app via a tablet, as implemented by a caregiver, to increase requesting in an adult with autism spectrum disorder.
This case study is a pilot study involving the provision of instruction to a primary caregiver of a young woman with autism spectrum disorder and complex communication needs. First, the primary caregiver was trained to use the speech generating app. After the primary caregiver met the performance criteria, she taught the woman with autism spectrum disorder and complex communication needs how to use the app independently.
The caregiver quickly learned the steps of implementing the augmentative and alternative communication intervention and maintained use of these skills at high rates several months after the intervention was completed. Furthermore, the young woman with complex communication needs also increased use of augmentative and alternative communication, although her results were variable and were not maintained.
Despite the positive findings from this study regarding the accuracy of the primary caregiver's intervention implementation, future research should examine a better way to meet the needs of adult people with autism spectrum disorder and complex communication needs when using augmentative and alternative communication systems.