Not all children respond the same to various interventions. Parsons et al. helps us with this problem by identifying which school-aged children with autism respond best to a peer-mediated play-based pragmatic language intervention.
The intervention consisted of ten weekly 50-minute sessions for students with ASD (ages 6–11, without intellectual disability) paired with typically developing peers. During each session, SLPs and OTs targeted individualized pragmatic language skills through:
“Feedforward” discussions of target skills (where you focus on what to do next time, vs. feedback.)
Peer and therapist modeling
Parents were encouraged to carry over targeted skills at home by reviewing videos, holding playdates, and reading a provided parent manual. See the original article and this article for even more details about this intervention.
So which children benefited most? The results might surprise you.
Children with higher separation anxiety, possibly because this intervention created a safe space with positive social interactions.
Children with greater ability to use and interpret communicative intent, suggesting that this skill may be an important prerequisite for this type of pragmatic intervention.
Children with lower nonverbal communication skills had better pragmatic outcomes, likely because the intervention targeted these exact skills.
As a school-based SLP, you might consider these results when determining which students would be appropriate for various intervention types. For instance, if a child has significant difficulty using and interpreting communicative intent, the type of intervention used here might not be your first line of treatment. When working with a high-anxiety student, you might consider a more structured session with one peer rather than pushing in to a classroom with 10 other students.
Parsons, L., Cordier, R., Munro, N., & Joosten, A. (2019). A play-based, peer-mediated pragmatic language intervention for school-aged children on the autism spectrum: Predicting who benefits most. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04137-3