Teaching VOCA use as a communicative repair strategy

Jeff Sigafoos, Eric Drasgow, James W. Halle, Mark O'reilly, Sue Seely-York, Chaturi Edrisinha, Alonzo Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Students with developmental disabilities often rely on prelinguistic behavior (e.g., reaching, leading) to communicate. When listeners fail to attend to prelinguistic behaviors, students may benefit from responding with an alternative form of communication to repair the breakdown. In the present study, we taught two students with developmental disabilities to repair communicative breakdowns by using a voice-output communication aid (VOCA). Intervention occurred at morning snack time when the students had the opportunity to access preferred items through prelinguistic behavior (e.g., reaching, guiding). Breakdowns occurred when the listener failed to attend to the student's initial request. Effects of the intervention were evaluated in a multiple-baseline design across subjects. Both students learned to use the VOCA to repair communicative breakdowns. As VOCA use was acquired as a repair strategy, the students also began to use the device to initiate requests when there had been no breakdown in communication. The intervention appeared to be an effective approach for supplementing prelinguistic behaviors with an additional option for communicating a request.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-422
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Augmentative and alternative communication
  • behavior indication
  • communicative repair
  • prelinguistic behavior
  • requesting
  • voice-output communication aid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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