Language intervention and disruptive behavior in preschool children with autism

J Autism Dev Disord. 1992 Jun;22(2):141-53. doi: 10.1007/BF01058147.


Disruptive behaviors are often exhibited by children with severe disabilities during difficult teaching tasks. Because learning verbal communication can be a difficult task for nonverbal children with autism, disruptive behaviors are common during such interventions. The purpose of this experiment was to assess whether the incorporation of parameters of natural language interactions and motivational techniques might reduce disruptive behavior during language teaching tasks. Within a repeated reversals design with order of conditions and number of sessions varied within and across children, treatment was conducted for two language teaching conditions. During one condition trials were presented serially in a traditional analog clinical format where the therapist presented instructions, prompts, and reinforcers for correct responses. The other condition incorporated parameters of natural language interactions and motivational techniques, such that stimulus items were functional and varied; natural reinforcers were employed; communicative attempts were reinforced; and trials were conducted within a natural interchange. Results showed that greater improvements in responding and considerably less (often negligible) disruptive behavior occurred during the natural language teaching conditions. Results are discussed with respect to their implications for improving language interventions, and with respect to reducing disruptive behavior without the need for specialized or severe interventions focused specifically on the disruptive behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / psychology
  • Autistic Disorder / therapy*
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology
  • Developmental Disabilities / therapy*
  • Education, Special
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Language Therapy*
  • Male
  • Social Environment
  • Verbal Behavior