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S1_PERSP-23-00107Donaldson.pdf (112.19 kB)

Autistic communication: A survey (Donaldson et al., 2023)

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posted on 2023-10-24, 16:01 authored by Amy L. Donaldson, Alyssa Hillary Zisk, Brandon Eddy, endever* corbin, Melissa Ugianskis, Erin Ford, Olivia Strickland

Purpose: Access to communication is a basic human right, yet autistic adults have reported challenges fully and effectively expressing themselves throughout childhood. This may be due to the historical (and ongoing) focus and prioritization of speech skills as a barometer of communicative success. The result is a lack of support for other forms of communication for children who may speak but still require support to fully meet their communication needs. This study aimed to examine the knowledge, experience, and training of school-based professionals in order to better understand one possible barrier to early communication access for autistic children.

Method: Using a participatory research method, we designed and administered a 35-question online survey. A total of 567 participants completed the survey, including 465 special educators, 71 speech-language pathologists (SLPs), and 31 other professionals. A segment of the survey data was analyzed in R. Comparisons between and within the largest groups (SLPs and special educators) were made with nonparametric statistics, including Fisher’s exact, Wilcoxon signed-ranks, and Quade tests.

Results: SLPs and special educators differed significantly on a variety of survey measures, including undergraduate coursework in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and autism, caseloads, and confidence related to working with autistic students and AAC users. Regardless of profession, most respondents reported completing what they considered to be an AAC assessment.

Conclusions: Increasing school-based professionals’ knowledge related to autism and AAC, as well as opportunities to improve skills, is critical to resolving access and opportunity barriers for autistic children who speak but may benefit from AAC. Partnering with autistic people to better understand autistic speech and careful collaboration among team members are recommended.

Supplemental Material S1. Participant survey.

Donaldson, A. L., Zisk, A. H., Eddy, B., corbin, e., Ugianskis, M., Ford, E., & Strickland, O. (2023). Autistic communication: A survey of school-based professionals. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups. Advance online publication.

Publisher Note: This article is part of the Forum: Neurodiversity.


This project is partially funded through a Portland State University Faculty Development Grant awarded to Amy L. Donaldson.