Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Elizabeth R. Lorah

Committee Member

Christine Holyfield

Second Committee Member

Peggy Schaefer Whitby


applied behavior analysis, augmentative and alternative communication, autism spectrum disorder, educational instruction, effective teaching practices, speech-generating device


The first of the following articles provides a review of the literature related to vocalizations among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, with special attention paid to speech-generating devices (SGD). After providing an overview of ASD, evidence-based practices (EBP), and AAC types and a brief history, this review evaluates studies that collected data on vocalizations in SGD-users, including both those that targeted vocalizations as a dependent variable and those that measured vocalizations as a collateral effect without directly targeting it. The goal of this review is to evaluate whether SGD use may lead to an increase in vocalizations and, if so, what interventions have shown promise in this pursuit.

The second article is manuscript of a study evaluating the effects of a multi-phase AAC intervention package using modeling, prompting, and reinforcement on prelinguistic and linguistic partner-directed play communicative behaviors, in three preschoolers with ASD, using SGD. Using a multiple probe across behaviors design nested within a multiple probe across participants design, the researchers modeled and prompted holding up a toy (prelinguistic play communication), activating the SGD button “Look” (linguistic play communication), and engaging in partner-directed gaze with the interventionist. All three participants demonstrated some increase in prelinguistic communication and partner-directed gaze, although only one met and maintained full mastery criteria for all target behaviors. Results are discussed in terms of their contribution to AAC research involving prelinguistic and linguistic communication, and in terms of participant differences, such as prior SGD experience, size of imitation repertoire, and response to social praise, that may help account for variance in acquisition. Future directions are also discussed, including the need for further research on incorporating prelinguistic targets into SGD intervention.

The final article is directed toward practitioners working with young children with ASD who use SGD and provides research-based guidelines for increasing opportunities for both prelinguistic and linguistic communication in that population. Using the literature reviewed in the first article, as well as the research reviewed and conducted related to the second article, this final article provides research-based strategies for increasing a variety of communicative behaviors, including prelinguistic (i.e., joint attention, gestures, and eye contact) and linguistic (i.e., SGD use as well as vocalizations alongside SGD use), in SGD-users with ASD.