Sixty children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) participated in the study. They ranged in age from 5 to 8 years and used fewer than 20 words at the start of therapy. The researchers measured their word use before, midway-through and after the six-month study. All the children participated in a play-based intervention that encouraged engagement with the therapist and the use of spoken language. To start, they received two, hour-long sessions per week. To measure the additional benefit of a speech-generating device, the researchers used it with half the children from the very start of therapy. (Speech-generating devices come in many forms, including iPads with special apps.) At the 3 month mark, the researchers measured the children’s progress. Those who were gaining language skills continued on course. The researchers added the communication device to the therapy of children who were responding slowly without it. Those who were progressing slowly even with the device received an extra hour of therapy per week.
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