Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


44th Annual Convention; San Diego, CA; 2018

Event Details

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Symposium #463
CE Offered: BACB
Vocal Behaviour During Transition From PECS to a Speech Generating Device: Impact of Teaching Strategies and Voice Output
Monday, May 28, 2018
12:00 PM–12:50 PM
Manchester Grand Hyatt, Seaport Ballroom F
Area: AUT/PRA; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Lori Frost (Pyramid Educational Consultants)
Discussant: Andy Bondy (Pyramid Educational Consultants, Inc.)
CE Instructor: Julie Koudys, Ph.D.

Augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) systems are often used by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and communication impairments. Some AAC systems, such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS; Bondy & Frost, 1994), have been extensively researched and are considered evidence-based practice for individuals with ASD (Wong, 2013). However, many parents and practitioners opt to use alternative AAC systems, including speech-generating devices (SGDs) on tablet-based applications (e.g., Proloquo2go, PECS IV App). SGDs offer several benefits, including the voice output feature, which is easily understood and reduces the requirement for users to obtain the attention of their listener, and the ability to easily add and expand vocabulary in a compact and efficient manner (Lorrah et al., 2014). Despite these advantages, SGDs currently lack sufficient empirical support to be considered evidence-based practice. Further, the impact on associated vocal behaviour is relatively unknown. This symposium will present two research studies, both of which evaluate the effects of a tablet-based communication system (i.e., PECS IV App) on the vocal communication of young children with ASD. Results will be discussed in terms of implications for selecting and training AAC communication systems. Practical considerations for the use of SGDs with children with ASD will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Target Audience:

Graduate level practitioners and researchers


Transition from PECS to PECS IV App: Impact of the Voice Output Feature on Vocal Behaviour

JULIE KOUDYS (Brock University), Krysten Elizabeth Thompson (Brock University)

Given the identified benefits of SGD's there is increasing pressure on clinicians to transition children from picture-based communication systems (e.g., PECS) to SGD's, including tablet-based applications (e.g., PECS IV App). Although there is emerging research exploring the use of SGD's to teach manding (e.g., Sigafoos et al., 2013), tacting (e.g., Kagohara et al., 2012), and the use of SGD's compared to other AAC's (Lorah et al., 2013), little is known about the effects of SGD use on the vocal behaviour of children with ASD (Gevarter et al., 2013; Schlosser, & Wendt, 2008). Specifically, the impact on vocalizations during the transition from a low-tech system (pictures) to a high-tech system (iPad) remains relatively unknown. This multiple-baseline design across participants' study explored the vocal behaviour of four children with ASD across three conditions: (a) PECS (book), (b) PECS IV App (no voice output), and (c) PECS IV App (with voice output). Treatment fidelity data were collected while training PECS Phase IV (pictures) and while training the PECS IV App. Results will be discussed in terms of the implications of transitioning from low- to high-tech devices, and the impact of the voice output feature, on the vocal behaviour of young children with ASD.

An Adapted Alternating Treatments Comparison of Two Interventions for Teaching Speech-Generating Device Use: Impact on Vocal Behaviour
KRYSTEN ELIZABETH THOMPSON (Brock University), Julie Koudys (Brock University)
Abstract: In addition to enhancing functional communication skills, PECS has been associated with increases in spontaneous speech, vocabulary, and complexity of statements (Carr & Felce, 2007; Charlop-Christy et al., 2002; Ganz & Simpson, 2004). Results of several single-subject studies indicate that speech gains are most likely to occur in Phase IV or above (Charlop-Christy et al., 2002; Ganz & Simpson, 2004). These results suggest characteristics of Phase IV may be important for speech production (Flippin, Reszka, & Watson, 2010). Although the exact mechanism of change is unknown, the creators (Bondy & Frost, 2004) suggest the use of a time delay when “reading” the sentence strip may be associated with increased vocalizations. The current study evaluated the effects on vocalizations of two approaches to communication training using the PECS IV App: (a) voice output without time delay, and (b) voice output with time delay (i.e., behavior chain interruption strategy). A multiple baseline design across four participants with ASD, with an embedded alternating treatment design, was used. Data were collected while participants were trained to use the SGD and during the alternating treatment conditions. Implications for training SGDs will be discussed.



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