VOCA use as a communicative repair strategy: how will it generalize?
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Without intervention to teach alternative forms of communication, preschoolers with developmental disabilities may rely on prelinguistic communication behaviors. Reliance on prelinguistic forms may be problematic because the communicative intent of these behaviors is often difficult to interpret, resulting in communication breakdowns. The purpose of this study was to teach young children who use prelinguistic communication forms to use a voice-output communication aid (VOCA) to repair communication breakdowns that arise when the child's prelinguistic initiations go unrecognized or are misunderstood. This study expanded the pilot work by Sigafoos, O'Reilly, Drasgow, Halle, Seely-York, Edrisinha, and Andrews (2004). Participants were 4 young students who experienced communication breakdowns due to their use of prelinguistic communication forms. Intervention occurred during various times throughout the day when the students had the opportunity to access preferred items through prelinguistic behavior. Effects of the intervention were evaluated in a multiple baseline design across three participants with a delayed baseline for a 4th participant. Generalization probes were implemented to assess generalization of repair strategies across various conditions related to (a) nonattending listeners and (b) misinterpretation of the child's communicative intent. All students learned to use the VOCA to repair communication breakdowns. As the participants began to use the VOCA to repair, they also began to use it to initiate requests for reinforcers. VOCA use as a repair strategy generalized to other breakdown conditions as well. The intervention appeared to be a useful approach for teaching young children who use prelinguistic communication forms an alternative method for repairing communication breakdowns.