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Keywords:

  • autistic children;
  • antecedent control;
  • pictorial cues;
  • social interaction;
  • script fading

Engaging in spontaneous social exchanges is a central skill deficit of children with autism, and one that is often difficult to remediate. The 3 boys (ages 4, 4, and 5 years) who participated in this study had acquired small verbal repertoires, but typically spoke only when answering questions or requesting preferred edible items or toys, and did not converse with a familiar teacher during baseline. During teaching, textual cues (“Look” and “Watch me”) were embedded in the youngsters' photographic activity schedules; after learning to use the scripts, the children's verbal elaborations and unscripted interactions increased and were maintained when a new recipient of interaction was introduced. After scripts were faded, unscripted interactions not only continued but also generalized to different activities that had not been the topic of teaching. The script-fading procedure enabled children with autism to converse with adults, to benefit from adults' language models, and to engage in language practice that contributes to fluency.