Date of Defense

Spring 4-22-1994


Speech Pathology and Audiology

First Advisor

Nickola Nelson, Speech Pathology/Audiology

Second Advisor

Christine Bahr, Special Education

Third Advisor

Laura Getty, Kalamazoo Valley Intermediate School District


This was a study of oral and written communication of adolescents with autism. The investigator held 12 to 14 individual social conversations (half orally and half written) with three adolescents with autism (2 males, 1 female) in 15 to 20 minute session in the students' own classrooms over a 15 week period. Oral sessions were alternated with written sessions (passing paper and pen back and forth). Each session was tape-recorded, transcribed, coded for (a) mean length of utterance, (b) communicative functions, (c) turn-taking, and (d) topic matching. Transcriptions were coded and analyzed using the computer software, Systematic Analysis of Language Transcription. Features of the conversations were then compared within and across subjects for modality effects (written vs. oral). Results showed a range of individual discourse styles across subjects, with one subject in particular showing more elaborate responses in the written modality. If written capabilities exceed oral performance, written communication may provide supplemental or alternative methods of teaching students with autism in the classroom or may enhance social communication in multiple settings.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only