Contact

Karen Henry
Life Span Institute
785-864-0756

Autism researchers get $1.2M to test iPad app to help children with social communication

Mon, 07/29/2013
Contact: Karen Salisbury Henry 785 864-0756
July 23, 2013
KU autism researchers get $1.2 million to test iPad app to help children with social communication
LAWRENCE, KAN. — University of Kansas researchers will train preschoolers with autism and their classmates to use an iPad voice output app to determine whether the technology can improve the deficits in communication, social reciprocity and play skills typical of children on the autism spectrum. 
Kathy Thiemann-Bourque, University of Kansas assistant research professor at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project in Kansas City, Kan., will direct the four-year study, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Communication Intervention for Preschoolers Learning to use AAC (CI-PAAC).
“Many young children with autism have complex communication needs but do not develop functional speech,” said Thiemann-Bourque. “AAC  — alternative and augmentative communication — can allow them to communicate independently, but most studies that report success involve communicating with adults, not with peers.” 
Thiemann-Bourque has examined both peer training and direct teaching strategies to increase social communication between children with autism and their classmates without disabilities. She has been successful in training peers to be responsive communication partners and to use the same AAC system as their classmates with autism in a previous study.
 “Integrating both of these approaches seemed to be a logical and innovative next step to advance intervention research for this population,” she said. 
A voice output app will be used as a speech-generating device programmed to meet the individual needs of each child with autism. The app will quickly display pictures and photographs taken at home and school, for example, so that children can press them to express wants and needs, greet others and make comments to facilitate typical preschool communication. 
The KU study will recruit 48 preschool children with autism who are nonverbal or minimally verbal, 48 early education school staff and 144 peers without disabilities (each child with autism will have three peer partners) from greater Kansas City area and Lawrence school districts for the study, which began July 1. 
After the initial staff training, half of the children with autism will be randomly assigned to an intervention condition that incorporates additional teaching strategies using the iPad app, and the other half will be assigned to a control condition with followup observations in the classroom. The intervention will be implemented for one school year.
Nancy Brady, associate professor at the KU Life Span Institute and study co-investigator, directed the development of the Communication Complexity Scale in 2012. The CCS will be modified for this study to measure changes in the children’s’ complexity of prelinguistic and early linguistic communication with peer partners. CI-PAAC will also measure changes in peer-oriented play based on commonly used developmental play categories and behaviors. 
The study will produce a manual for treatment implementation, as will a compilation of videos for parent and teacher training.
 
###
LAWRENCE — University of Kansas researchers will train preschoolers with autism and their classmates to use an iPad voice output app to determine whether the technology can improve the deficits in communication, social reciprocity and play skills typical of children on the autism spectrum. 
 
Kathy Thiemann-BourqueKathy Thiemann-Bourque, University of Kansas assistant research professor at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project in Kansas City, Kan., will direct the four-year study, funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, Communication Intervention for Preschoolers Learning to use AAC (CI-PAAC).
 
“Many young children with autism have complex communication needs but do not develop functional speech,” said Thiemann-Bourque. “AAC  — alternative and augmentative communication — can allow them to communicate independently, but most studies that report success involve communicating with adults, not with peers.” 
 
Thiemann-Bourque has examined both peer training and direct teaching strategies to increase social communication between children with autism and their classmates without disabilities. She has been successful in training peers to be responsive communication partners and to use the same AAC system as their classmates with autism in a previous study.
 “Integrating both of these approaches seemed to be a logical and innovative next step to advance intervention research for this population,” she said. 
 
A voice output app will be used as a speech-generating device programmed to meet the individual needs of each child with autism. The app will quickly display pictures and photographs taken at home and school, for example, so that children can press them to express wants and needs, greet others and make comments to facilitate typical preschool communication. 
 
The KU study will recruit 48 preschool children with autism who are nonverbal or minimally verbal, 48 early education school staff and 144 peers without disabilities (each child with autism will have three peer partners) from greater Kansas City area and Lawrence school districts for the study, which began July 1. 
 
After the initial staff training, half of the children with autism will be randomly assigned to an intervention condition that incorporates additional teaching strategies using the iPad app, and the other half will be assigned to a control condition with followup observations in the classroom. The intervention will be implemented for one school year.
 
Nancy Brady, associate professor at the KU Life Span Institute and study co-investigator, directed the development of the Communication Complexity Scale in 2012. The CCS will be modified for this study to measure changes in the children’s’ complexity of prelinguistic and early linguistic communication with peer partners. CI-PAAC will also measure changes in peer-oriented play based on commonly used developmental play categories and behaviors. 
 
The study will produce a manual for treatment implementation, as will a compilation of videos for parent and teacher training.
 


Happy Halloween, Jayhawks! Check out the pumpkin-carving talents of our KU family. Yes, there's a jack-o-lantern rivalry going on in the middle there. Catch KU Football take on Baylor tomorrow at 3pm. Rock Chalk! (Thanks to all for submitting pictures – If you see your pumpkin, tag yourself!) Tags: Kansas Jayhawks #KUstudents #KUalumni

Inside KU: Protein research, biodiesel fuel, and KU's Bioscience & Technology Business Center "Inside KU" takes a look at how the expanded Bioscience & Technology Business Center (http://bit.ly/1zzPvrw) brings a number of beneficial services to small start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. Also: A KU startup at the BTBC, KanPro, is producing proteins for research in medicine, biotechnology, and life sciences (See http://bit.ly/1DSY3s9). KU Innovation and Collaboration focuses on turning the university’s research into industry (See http://bit.ly/ZTOKZF). The "Feedstock to Tailpipe Initiative" grows algae to provide a sustainable source for biodiesel fuel (See http://bit.ly/1oPRovz). Undergraduate Research Awards allow students to explore their fields deeper (See http://bit.ly/KUcugr). **The Time Warner Cable Sports Network's "Inside KU" is hosted by Jeannie Hodes.**


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
1 of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
$260.5 million in externally funded research expenditures
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times