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J Autism Dev Disord. 1991 Dec;21(4):433-47.

Analog language teaching versus natural language teaching: generalization and retention of language learning for adults with autism and mental retardation.

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  • 1Behavior Development and Learning Center, Camarillo State Hospital and Developmental Center, California 93011.


Examined the effects of two instructional methods on language generalization and long-term retention in 23 adults with autism and severe to profound mental retardation. Analog language teaching employed discrete trials in a controlled setting concentrating on discrimination and identification of materials. Natural language teaching emphasized instruction through interactions that occurred incidentally to training students in the use of materials to perform functional tasks. Assessments were conducted under conditions favoring analog teaching to assure against partiality toward natural language teaching. Under such disadvantageous conditions, the methods of natural language teaching would be supported by results showing either no difference or an advantage in their favor. Both techniques increased initial and long-term generalization though the results suggest no relative superiority for either method under these assessment conditions. A significant interaction was found between prior functioning level and sequence of instruction. Because natural language teaching has many strengths, few drawbacks, and produces equal generalization and retention under disadvantageous conditions, it is strongly supported as preferable for people with autism and mental retardation.

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