Background Approximately 30 % children diagnosed with autism remain minimally verbal past age 5. Interventions are often effective in increasing spoken communication for some of these children. Clinical and research decisions would be facilitated by identifying early indicators of progress in interventions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between speech sound measures obtained from the early phases of treatment and later treatment outcomes in children with autism and minimal verbal skills.
Methods Twenty-three children (18 boys) between 5-9 years of age participated. We compared scores reflecting the phonemic features of word attempts produced during probes, and the number of correct words after 4 weeks of intervention to later word learning outcomes.
Results Correlational and hierarchical regression analyses showed that both predictors were positively correlated with outcomes, but the phonemic scores were more strongly related than number of correct words.
Conclusion We conclude that phonemic scoring may be a useful measure to determine proximal gains in a spoken word learning intervention. Proximal measures are particularly helpful when trying to decide if the current course of intervention should be maintained or altered.
Trial Registration Not applicable.