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CAS Student Research Proposals:


Title of Project: Developing social communication skills in children experiencing difficulty

Authors(s) Jane Doe, SLHS, xxxx Lane St., Denver, CO 80214; email – doej@mscd.edu
Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

Abstract (50 words or less)

Project investigators will design and deliver whole-class and small-group instruction to 12

children with identified social communication problems. Video modeling and parent/peer

carryover activities will be used to promote generalization of targeted skills. Intervention efficacy

will be assessed using formal and informal survey tools and contextualized observation.

Summary of Proposal (500 words or less)

Background . Social communication skills are the verbal and nonverbal behaviors people

use to influence social situations (Timler, Vogal-Ellis & McGill, 2007). These skills are acquired

incidentally for most children; they are needed to support academic and social development.

Research suggests that children with language and/or learning disabilities have problems in this

important area, including difficulty entering conversations with peers (Brinton, Fujiki, Spencer &

Robinson, 1997) staying on topic, and monitoring their listeners’ interest (Tomblin, Zhang, Weiss,

Catts & Weismer, 2004). Problems with social communication can result in increased social

isolation and withdrawal during the elementary school years (Fujiki, Brinton, Issacson &

Summers, 2001); they can interfere with establishing successful interpersonal relationships

throughout adolescence into adulthood (Wadman, Durkin & Conti-Ramsden, 2008).

Methodology. The project investigators will provide in-service training about social

communication development and interventions to six primary grade teachers and their assistants at
a local elementary school. Following the training, teachers will be asked to identify and refer two

children each (12 subjects total) who they believe have social communication difficulties and

would benefit from participating in the intervention. Teachers will be informed that the

intervention will consist of whole-class, small-group pull-out and carryover components and be

designed to help children develop the following social communication skills: 1) reading social

situations correctly and responding appropriately, 2) joining an ongoing communicative

interaction appropriately and 3) making relevant contributions to a topic during conversation and


The researchers will provide instruction for all students in the six primary classrooms

during three, 30 minute sessions over the course of six weeks. In addition to these sessions, the 12

focus subjects will also receive six, 30-minute small group pull-out sessions (one per week)

designed to reinforce the skills that were taught in the classroom sessions. Both large and small-

group lessons will include direct instruction, modeling, role-play, practice of targeted skills and

self-evaluation activities. Video modeling, in which students repeatedly view video-taped

vignettes illustrating targeted behaviors (Bellini, Akullian & Hopf, 2007; Delano, 2007), and peer

mediated practice (e.g., Thiemann & Goldstein, 2004) will be implemented to enhance instruction

and promote generalization of newly learned skills to authentic contexts.

Data Collection. Prior to and following the intervention, the parents and classroom

teachers of the 12 subjects will complete the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-4th

Edition (CELF-4) Pragmatics Profile. This checklist is a survey which requires the rater to judge

the child’s competency on a range of verbal and non verbal social communication skills. Subjects

will also be asked to rate themselves according to their perceived efficacy on a number of

communication/friendship skills. Additionally, prior to, following and three months after the

intervention, the classroom teaching assistants will observe subjects during recess and note

whether or not each joined his/her peers or played independently. Parents and teachers will

respond to open-ended survey questions regarding each child’s social communication skill

development immediately following the intervention and again three months later. Sample

intervention methods and data collection protocols will be shared in this presentation.


Bellini, S., Akullian, J., & Hopf, A. (2007). Increasing social engagement in young children with
autism spectrum disorders using video self-modeling. School Psychology Review, 26(1), 80-90.

Brinton, B., Fujiki, M., Spencer, J.C., & Robinson, L.A. (1997). The ability of children with
specific language impairment to access and participate in an ongoing interaction. Speech,
Language, and Hearing Research, 40, 1011-1025.

Delano, M. E. (2007). Video modeling interventions for individuals with autism. Remedial and
Special Education, 28(1), 33-42.

Fujiki, M., Brinton, B., Isaacson, T., & Summers, C. (2001). Social behaviors of children with
language impairment on the playground: A pilot study. Language, Speech, Hearing Services in
Schools, 32, 101–113.

Semel, E., Wiig, E. H., & Secord, W. A. (2003). Clinical evaluation of language fundamentals,
fourth edition (CELF-4). Toronto, Canada: The Psychological Corporation: A Harcourt
Assessment Company.

Thiemann, K.S. & Goldstein, H. (2004). Effects of peer training and written text cueing on social
communication of school-age children with pervasive developmental disorder. Journal of Speech,
Language, and Hearing Research 47(1), 126-144.

Timler, G.R., Vogler-Elias, D., & McGill, K.F. (2007). Strategies for promoting generalization of
social communication skills in preschoolers and school-aged children. Topics in Language
Disorders: 27(2), 167-181.

Tomblin, J.B., Zhang, X., Weiss, A., Catts, H., & Ellis Weismer, S. (2004). Dimensions of
individual differences in communication skills among primary grade children. In M.L. Rice & S.F.
Warren (Eds.), Developmental language disorders: From phenotypes to etiologies (pp.53-76).
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.