Background. Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), a group of disabilities characterized by difficulty with communication and social interaction, have fewer opportunities for early literacy activities like shared storybook reading. Shared storybook reading is an important early literacy activity in which a parent and child engage in shared enjoyment surrounding a storybook. The goal of this study was to teach parents of preschoolers with ASDs strategies to support language and social engagement during shared storybook reading.
Purpose. To increase early literacy opportunities for preschoolers with ASDs, parents were taught scaffolding strategies to support language and social engagement during shared storybook reading.
Method. A single-subject multiple baseline design across seven parent-child dyads was employed to examine whether a parent-implemented intervention changed parents’ use of scaffolding strategies (i.e., target and total strategy use), children’s expressive language (i.e., total number of different words and mean length of utterance), and parent-child social engagement (i.e., rate of parent and child utterances and duration of reading). Analysis of baseline data determined parents’ use of eight scaffolding strategies, including: Praise/encouragement Statements, Pauses, Attention-getters, Achievable Models, Recasts, Cloze Statements, WH Questions, and Vocabulary Definitions. Baseline data were used to individualize the intervention, such that parents were taught to increase their use of four of the eight strategies used least during baseline. Twelve intervention sessions, conducted three times weekly, consisted of parent-training through direct instruction, modeling, practice with feedback, and independent practice. Follow-up sessions occurred two weeks post intervention. Generalization data were collected for three dyads. Two dyads participated in a control condition in which they were provided access to the intervention materials while parent training was delayed. Treatment fidelity was assessed by the use of a procedural checklist during each study session. Additionally, treatment fidelity was assessed by having a trained coder rate 30% of parent training sessions utilizing the procedural checklist. Probe data for analysis were collected during all sessions (i.e., baseline, intervention, follow-up, and generalization), and included video-taping at least five consecutive minutes of shared storybook reading. Social validity was assessed by having graduate students, blind to the study hypotheses, rate randomly selected video clips from baseline and intervention using a Likert-style rating scale. In addition, social validity was assessed by having parents complete a parent satisfaction measure as well as a pre/post rating scale on shared storybook reading views and practices.
Results. Data analysis included visual inspection of behavior change and analysis of percentage of non-overlapping data points. The results revealed that all but one parent increased target or total strategy use. Graduate students rated intervention video clips significantly higher than baseline video clips on aspects of parent-child social engagement, children’s language, and parents’ ability to facilitate the child’s engagement. Additionally, the graduate students selected 100% of the intervention video clips as the “best" example of child engagement. Parent social validity measures indicated that all parents were satisfied with the intervention, and felt more confident in their ability to keep their child engaged after the intervention. Changes in child variables were observed in three children. One dyad showed a more equal balance in parent-child utterance rates. All dyads increased the duration of shared storybook reading.
Discussion. The results of this study support the feasibility of shared story book interventions for increasing early literacy opportunities for children with ASDs. Limitations and future directions are presented.