Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Yaoying Xu

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin Sutherland

Third Advisor

Dr. Donald Oswald

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jason Chow

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Serra De Arment


Exploring the interventions that promote expressive, verbal language for preschool-aged children with autism is essential. When a child is lacking the ability to communicate, parents express that they would like their child to speak. B.F. Skinner (1957) proposed that the mand repertoire (communicative requests) should be an initial focus of language training. Mand training has been shown to be effective for teaching children with autism to communicate. However, many studies exploring mand training utilize highly trained instructors for intervention implementation. Early childhood best practices recommend the use of family-centered interventions and teaching within the natural environment. This study followed these recommendations.

This research utilized a single subject multiple baseline across participants design with two parents and their preschool aged children with autism. The purpose of this dissertation study was two fold: (1) to examine the effects of a verbal mand with direct trial instruction intervention on the verbal communication skills for children with autism, and (2) to investigate if a parent can reliably implement the intervention. Using written instructions, role play, video models, and performance feedback, the researcher taught parents how to implement the intervention with their child. The goal of the intervention was to increase verbal communication skills, specifically the production of independent verbal mands. The intervention under question involved verbal mand training using direct trial instruction (DTI). During DTI the parent taught the child to use mands utilizing a time delay, verbal prompting, and sign language. The researcher collected data during the baseline, intervention, and maintenance phases. In addition to the intervention results, the researcher collected and analyzed social validity, treatment fidelity, and parent competence data.

Results from the intervention effects did not show a functional relation between the treatment and the target behavior. However, both participants increased their ability to use verbal and sign language communication. The parents were able to implement the intervention with fidelity and gained high competence scores related to intervention delivery expertise and behavioral responsiveness. The parents also reported that the intervention was extremely useful for their family. The parents generalized the intervention procedures and their children communicated more throughout their daily routines.


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