Given that verbal communication is a positive prognostic indicator (Gillberg 1991
; Howlin et al. 2000
; Venter et al. 1992
), the lack of communication is one of the most concerning symptoms that children with autism present. Although, follow-up studies of 2-year-olds suggest that 75–90% of children with autism acquire functional expressive communication (Eaves and Ho 2004
; Charman et al. 2005
; Koegel 2000
; McGee et al. 1999
; Turner et al. 2006
), there continues to be a subgroup of children who do not (cf. Sherer and Schreibman 2005
). Thus, in developing effective programming, it is imperative that all methods continually evaluate their curricula, so that the child’s behavior always guides the intervention, as the population of children with autism is so heterogeneous (Sherer and Schreibman 2005
; Pelios and Lund 2001
) that it is almost impossible to design a one-size-fits-all approach.
One technique that might facilitate speech acquisition for this subgroup of children, who are having difficulty progressing in intervention, is the use of orienting cues. The literature suggests that the basic visual orienting processes among children with autism are intact and are similar to their peers when orienting cues are employed (Burack et al. 1997
; Goldstein et al. 2001
). A few studies have investigated the use of orienting cues in facilitating discrimination learning related to language. For example, Koegel et al. (1981
) found that when children with autism were required to make an overt orienting response (i.e., by verbally labeling the relevant cue) during discrimination tasks, rapid acquisition occurred. Additionally, researchers have shown that, though time consuming, the use of a rapid generalized motor imitation antecedent could be used to induce vocal imitations in nonverbal children with autism (Ross and Greer 2003
; Tsiouri and Greer 2003
). Still, there remains limited research concerning individualized techniques to support non-responders with autism.
Thus, the purpose of the present study was to assess whether presenting brief individualized orienting cues, prior to presenting verbal models, would result in the production of verbal expressive words in nonverbal children with autism who had a history of non-responding.