| The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of scaffolding instruction on the expressive language abilities of children with autism. A design of single-subject multiple probe across conditions and subjects was adopted. The subjects were four elementary school pupil, two boys and two girls, aged from 7:07 to 10:03 years, with performance IQ above 70 and language comprehension/expression above M-2SD in PPVT (Chinese version). Each subject, in each experimental condition, went through phases of baseline, experiment, maintenance, and generalization. During experimental phase, semantic maps, life pictures, sentence cards, and other visual as well as auditory scaffolding strategies were used to teach the subject to describe the experience drown on the pictures. The processes were video-and-audio-tapped. After training to show appropriate inter-observer reliability, the tapes were analyzed by an independent rater. Data were analyzed by visual analysis method. Events narrating ability, sentence structure, sentence coherence, the amount of morphemes, and mean length of utterance (MLU) were analyzed to compare the changes before and after experimental treatment. In addition, open-question questionnaires and interviews were used to gather information from parents and teachers to assess the general effects of scaffolding instruction on the daily life of the subjects.
The results are summarized as the following:
1. the scaffolding instruction enhanced the following elements of the expressive language:
(1) all subjects improved to have five events narrating elements: who/when/where/how/what, and the improvement also observed during the maintenance phase.
(2) All subjects demonstrated improved sentence structures, and the effect remained during the maintenance phase. They could use simple and complex sentences to described life events.
(3) The narrative of events was more coherent in experimental and maintenance phases.
(4) The amount of morphemes and MLU also increased progressively and the effect remained during the maintenance phase.
(5) The feedback from parents and teachers indicated that scaffolding instruction could improve expressive language ability included events narrating ability of the subjects.
2. In generalization probes, all subjects showed improved expressive language ability in events narrating ability, sentence structure, sentence coherence, the amount of morphemes, and MLU.
3. The visual language scaffolded by concrete and coherent life pictures as helpful for children with autism to learn to describe abstract contents of dance and movie.
4. While the expressive language ability improved, the unfunctional utterance and the inappropriate use of pronoun were decreased.
5. All subjects could express their simple feeling and had emotional interaction during generalization probes.
The findings were discussed and recommendations were made to apply the scaffolding strategies in special education. Further research will be needed to clarify the usefulness of scaffolding instruction in low function autistic and in other children with special needs.