(February 17, 2009) Today Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky, Maureen Angell and Julia Stoner, all members of the Special Education faculty in Illinois State University’s College of Education, were awarded a three-year Institute of Education Sciences grant for $855,000.

The trio’s research effort is titled Parent-Implemented Social-Pragmatic Communication Intervention for Young Children with Developmental Disabilities. The purpose of the study is to develop and document the feasibility of a family-specific, home-based naturalistic and visual strategies intervention package that parents can implement themselves to improve both social pragmatic communication skills of their young children with developmental disabilities.

The researchers expect to have between six and eight children with developmental disabilities between two and five years old participate each year of the grant project. The parents will be trained and coached in their homes and encouraged to use the newly acquired strategies with their children. During data collection, the children will not be removed from their homes.

The methods that will be taught to the parents include the naturalist strategies: modeling, mand-model, time delay, and incidental teaching. The visual strategies are: visual schedules, visuals to structure the environment, visual scripts, rule reminder cards, and visual task analysis.

The researchers will be especially interested in how parents’ sustained use of the specific strategies will affect the children’s communication behaviors. The results of this study should be useful in the education areas of Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education research.