Disordered and/or delayed communication and language development constitute a defining characteristic of mental retardation. The proposed research is guided by a conceptualization of communication and language development that stresses the central role of the developmental cusp-an intersection in the interaction of behavior, skill, perception, or motivation, that is crucial to what should come next in development. Until the cusp is negotiated, development along that route may essentially stop;successful negotiation then permits a significant set of subsequent developments to occur. The cusps addressed in the present proposal are closely related to and representative of communication challenges of individuals with severe or profound mental retardation or at risk for severe mental retardation. Our recent research suggests that their communication impairments are at least partially amenable to intervention. Thus, we propose to further our understanding of these developmental cusps as we examine strategies for their negotiation. The cusps are conceptualized to lie on a continuum of communication development from pre-intentional to beginning symbolic communication. The cusps are contingency discrimination, triadic eye gaze, and symbolic communication using voice output communication aides (VOCA). Our strategies are built on nearly four decades of study. Specifically, we intend to show how children and adults with profound multiple impairments can learn to request assistance with adaptive switches (Project I: R. Saunders et al.);how triadic eye gaze for joint attention can be established in very young children with moderate or severe motor impairments (Project II: Olswang et al.);and how acquisition of symbolic communication using VOCA affects the development of successful communication exchanges (Project III: Brady et al.). All projects propose to identify participant variables that predict success in crossing the particular cusps they are studying. In addition, the relationship between the two earlier developing cusps studied by Projects I and II and later communication as studied by Project III will be investigated through both prospective and retrospective analyses.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZHD1-DSR-H (RS))
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Kau, Alice S
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University of Kansas Lawrence
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Brady, Nancy C; Anderson, Christa J; Hahn, Laura J et al. (2014) Eye tracking as a measure of receptive vocabulary in children with autism spectrum disorders. Augment Altern Commun 30:147-59
Olswang, Lesley B; Dowden, Patricia; Feuerstein, Julie et al. (2014) Triadic gaze intervention for young children with physical disabilities. J Speech Lang Hear Res 57:1740-53
Brady, Nancy C; Thiemann-Bourque, Kathy; Fleming, Kandace et al. (2013) Predicting language outcomes for children learning augmentative and alternative communication: child and environmental factors. J Speech Lang Hear Res 56:1595-612
Olswang, Lesley B; Feuerstein, Julie L; Pinder, Gay Lloyd et al. (2013) Validating dynamic assessment of triadic gaze for young children with severe disabilities. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 22:449-62
Barker, R Michael; Akaba, Sanae; Brady, Nancy C et al. (2013) Support for AAC use in preschool, and growth in language skills, for young children with developmental disabilities. Augment Altern Commun 29:334-46
Saunders, Muriel D; Sella, Ana Carolina; Attri, Dua et al. (2013) Establishing a conditional signal for assistance in teenagers with blindness. Res Dev Disabil 34:1488-97
Brady, Nancy C; Fleming, Kandace; Thiemann-Bourque, Kathy et al. (2012) Development of the communication complexity scale. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 21:16-28
Thiemann-Bourque, Kathy (2012) Peer-Mediated AAC Instruction for Young Children with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities. Perspect Augment altern commun 21:
Thiemann-Bourque, Kathy S; Brady, Nancy C; Fleming, Kandace K (2012) Symbolic play of preschoolers with severe communication impairments with autism and other developmental delays: more similarities than differences. J Autism Dev Disord 42:863-73
Saunders, Muriel D; Saunders, Richard R (2012) Teaching Individuals to Signal for Assistance in a Timely Manner. Behav Interv 27:

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