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EBP Compendium: Summary of Systematic Review

Improving Communication for Children with Autism: Does Sign Language Work?

Schwartz, J. B., & Nye, C. (2007).
EBP Briefs, 1, 15-24.

Indicators of Review Quality:

The review addresses a clearly focused question Yes
Criteria for inclusion of studies are provided Yes
Search strategy is described in sufficient detail for replication No
Included studies are assessed for study quality Yes
Quality assessments are reproducible No

Description: This is a meta-analysis of experimental, quasi-experimental, and single subject design studies which explores the effect of sign language or oral or signed communication for children with autism.

Question(s) Addressed:

Does sign language work in improving communication for children with autism?

Population: Children between 4 and 18 years of age with autism

Intervention/Assessment: Sign language alone or in combination with speech

Number of Studies Included: 8 experimental or quasi-experimental group design, or experimental single subject design

Years Included: Not stated (studies included in the review were published 1978 to 1988).



  • Treatment
    • Cognition
      • AAC
        • Sign Language - “The evidence on the use of sign language with children with autism provides limited support for its concentrated application for children with autism, as there is little compelling evidence that sign language provides substantial improvements in either oral or sign language communication” (p. 15).

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders, American Sign Language

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Added to Compendium: January 2012

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