Communication profile of a minimally verbal school-age autistic child: A case study

Verónica Vidal*, Anita McAllister, Laura Dethorne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: The present clinical focus draws on an intrinsic case study to provide a thick description of the communication profile of John, a 9-year-old minimally verbal autistic student. Method: Specifically, traditional behavioral assessments, classroom video observations, and semistructured interviews were used to gather information regarding John’s communication profile and potential sensory–motor differences. Results: Convergent evidence indicated that John’s expressive profile was characterized by single words, emergent word combinations, some conventional gestures, and a low frequency of communicative initiations. Concomitant language comprehension challenges and poor intelligibility associated with motor speech impairment were also indicated. His sensory–motor profile was marked by fine motor impairment, relative strengths in gross motor abilities, and sensory differences across visual, hearing, and tactile modalities. Conclusion: Direct implications for supporting minimally verbal autistic students like John include the need to (a) consider sensory–motor influences on social interaction and (b) support flexible use of multimodal communication resources, including augmentative and alternative communication. Supplemental Material: 12202448.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-686
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The first author received financial support through Becas Chile, PhD scholarship abroad; the Goldstick Initiative for the Study of Communication Disorders; and the Marion Morse Wood Fellowship for interpersonal communication studies. The authors would like to thank the participating school and families. Special thanks to John’s family for their trust and collaboration. The authors would like to recognize Jacey Ernd, Emily Heuck, Lauren DeVries, Michelle Chan, Emily Peruba, Stephanie Cheng, Mindy Eng, Mackenzie Kamen, Amanda Moy, and Reagan Kelley for their assistance with data collection and coding. The authors are also grateful to Laura Hahn, Julie Hengst, Cynthia Johnson, and Daniela Wachholtz for their suggestions and insights.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.


  • Autistic Disorder
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Male


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