Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marjorie H. Charlop

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kendall Cotton Bronk

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tiffany Berry

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mathew Brodhead

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© 2020 Jenna Gilder


Adolescents, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Children, Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), Conversational Speech, Texting

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology


Children and adolescents diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have deficits in social communication ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders -5th edition, APA, 2013). These deficits are significantly pronounced when individuals with ASD attempt to engage in conversations. Due to advances in technology, children and adolescents are now conversing through computer mediated communication (CMC; Pew, 2015, 2018). Texting in particular is one popular form of CMC that may mitigate the non-verbal social skill deficits seen in individuals with ASD, such as eye contact and tone of voice. Despite the potential of texting and its' popularity as a CMC medium among typically developing children and adolescents, no research currently exists on teaching texting to individuals with ASD. The present study therefore aimed to increase the social communication skills of the participants by teaching five children and adolescents with ASD to maintain a back and forth conversation through text. This study was a non-concurrent multiple baseline design across dyads. The study involved two texting interventions; the first focused on the steps needed to send a text and the second examined teaching texting content. The texting step intervention was taught using a total-task chaining procedure to teach each of the steps illustrated in the texting guidebook, which was designed specifically for the current study. The second intervention used a multiple exemplar approach (two conversation samples) that were interspersed across sessions and participants. Both interventions were implemented using the guidebooks combined with prompting. The participants were paired together, resulting in three dyads. In two of the dyads, both of the participants had an ASD diagnosis. The third dyad included one participant with ASD and one typically developing peer. Training sessions were conducted in a lounge setting at an after-school behavioral treatment center and in the children’s respective homes. Generalization texting partner probes, FaceTime® probes, as well as one-month maintenance probes were also collected. Overall, results demonstrated that during baseline, all five of the children texted appropriately at low rates; in addition, one of the five participants also did not consistently complete all the steps required to send a text. Following the texting content intervention, all five of the participants reached the criterion for appropriate texting content. The one participant, who also received the texting steps intervention, met criterion for both interventions. All five participants also met the fading criterion and continued to demonstrate the two skills on their two weekly independent text conversations. They also all generalized across texting partners (from their peers to their parents/siblings) and maintained the behavior one month following treatment. In addition, the ancillary variable of percentage of appropriate verbal content spoken during FaceTime® was examined. All five children demonstrated low levels of appropriate verbal content in their FaceTime® probes prior to the texting intervention, and all demonstrated an increase in appropriate content following the texting intervention and during follow up. Lastly, strong social validity data was gained through examining pre and post surveys for parents and participants that asked about their current texting habits and their interest in learning to text with more people. Additional, social validity data was gained by having naïve raters score a sample of the conversations to assess the appropriateness of the conversations in terms of replicating the style of conversations typically developing children engage in. The results taken together suggest the potential benefit of teaching children and adolescents with ASD to communicate through text. Future research should replicate this study to validate and expand upon these findings.