Can We Improve Conversational Fluidity in Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Key Takeaway

Competency in social communication can be an indicator of how socially desirable one is when meeting new people. For people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their conversational fluidity can be predictive of friendships and subsequent social and emotional success in early adulthood. In order to address the lack of conversation fluidity among the ASD population, video feedback intervention is one evidence-based strategy that can make a difference in their verbal interaction. —Michael Ho

Video Feedback Intervention

Tagavi, Koegel, Koegel, and Vernon (2021) examined the efficacy of a video feedback intervention to improve conversational fluidity in young adults with ASD. Specifically, the authors aimed to determine whether a video-feedback intervention would improve conversational fluidity, question-asking, and overall social conversational desirability in young adults with ASD. In addition, the participants self-reported their confidence in social communication and their application of what they learned in the intervention to various natural settings.

The following research questions were addressed: 

  1. Will a video-feedback intervention decrease the number of long, awkward pauses young adults make in a conversation with a typically developing (TD) peer?
  2. Will a video-feedback intervention increase the number of on-topic questions young adults make in a conversation with a TD peer? 
  3. Will participation in this intervention lead to an increase in peer ratings of social desirability for these individuals?
  4. Will these individuals increase their confidence in their own social communication skills as well as find the intervention acceptable and enjoyable?

Here are the major takeaways from the article:

The Need for Conversation Skills for Adults with ASD

  • Tagavi et al. (2021) refer to Sasson et al. (2017)1 - “Starting in adolescence, social conversation skills become increasingly important, as there seem to be strict, yet unspoken, communication norms that determine whether an exchange is successful or not.” The success of one’s social communication can contribute to initial social impressions and can determine the desire for future interactions or a sustained relationship.
  • “Social challenges affect individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) of all ages and developmental levels.”2 These individuals typically have fewer frequencies of successful peer interaction; lower levels of self-esteem; and higher rates of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
  • Video feedback intervention, which is a type of video modeling that involves the viewing and evaluating of an individual’s previously filmed performance, is known to be useful for individuals with ASD because of their strong visual perception skills, tendency to think concretely, and ability to apply the skill in multiple contexts over a prolonged period of time. 

Increased Conversational Fluidity for Three Adults

  • Three adults with ASD, with an average age of 23 years, participated in this study. All intervention sessions were conducted in a clinic room at the University Autism Center. Three baseline sessions over 10 weeks were conducted before the interventions in order to collect data on their current performance in conversational fluidity. 
  • In response to the first research question, all three participants improved in their ability to use questions, filler words, and follow-up statements to fill in gaps in conversations. This indicates a decrease in the number of long, awkward pauses and an increase in conversational fluidity.
  • In response to the second research question, all three participants increased their use of on-topic questions to a rate comparable to their TD peer. On-topic questions were questions the participants asked that were connected to the main topic discussed in the conversation.
  • In response to the third research question, raters, who were blind to this study, scored all participants as being more socially desirable during and after the intervention.
  • In response to the fourth research question, the participants’ self-reports showed that all participants reported improvements in the confidence to communicate and the ability to ask questions following the intervention. They also reported that they found the interventions acceptable and enjoyable.
  • “Participants were able to learn and utilize skills with a variety of peers, indicating that conversational skills learned through video feedback are generalizable.” It is evident that video feedback is not only a powerful tool to increase conversational fluidity but also serves as a gateway to successful social communication across multiple contexts.

Limitations

There are several limitations in this study. First, in addition to conversational fluidity, there are other conversational skills that could also be targeted. Moreover, this study did not compare video feedback to other types of interventions on conversational fluidity. Another limitation of this study is the limited diversity of participants, who were all Caucasion males in their early adult years. Finally, there is limited research on the generalization technique to teach social communication skills to young adults; testing generalization more explicitly is recommended in future studies.

Summarized Article:

Tagavi, D., Koegel, L., Koegel, R., & Vernon, T. (2021). Improving Conversational Fluidity in Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder Using a Video-Feedback Intervention. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 23(4), 245–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098300720939969

Summary by: Michael Ho—Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.

Additional References:

  1. Sasson, N. J., Faso, D. J., Nugent, J., Lovell, S., Kennedy, D. P., & Grossman, R. B. (2017). Neurotypical peers are less willing to interact with those with autism based on thin slice judgments. Scientific Reports, 7, Article 40700.
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

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Join the MARIO Family

We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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