Experimental evaluation of an iPad-based augmentative and alternative communication program for early elementary children with severe, non-verbal autism

Ariana Azzato, Purdue University


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment package including a modified protocol of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) implemented via an autism-specific iPad application. A multiple probe design (Horner & Baer, 1978) was replicated across four individuals with severe, non-verbal autism to investigate effects on requesting skills, natural speech production, and social-communicative behaviors. Results suggest beneficial effects, if implemented with high fidelity. The largest effects were on the participants’ requesting skills. All four participants were able to consistently request for desired items by activating the tablet device, and this skill was maintained after a six week break. Generalization probes suggest the newly acquired requesting skills generalize to untrained items. However, individuals may not be able to complete all phases of the modified PECS protocol. Facilitative effects are more noticeable for social-communicative behaviors than for natural speech production. For the three participants that made speech gains, these gains occurred when speech elicitation was more actively implemented. Such patterns are consistent with previous research on the traditional PECS protocol. These results are discussed in regards to clinical applications and research directions.




Wendt, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Speech therapy|Behavioral Sciences|Educational technology

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