Theses Master's

Identifying Vocal-Motor Behaviors of Joint Engagement in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Parents

Yamane, Natasha M.

Impairments in joint engagement (JE), the triadic arrangement between a parent and a child around a shared object or event, have been vastly studied as a hallmark of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, a majority of existing work on JE has used primarily global measures of social behaviors derived from prior work on joint attention skills. To address this limitation, we developed the Vocal-Motor Coding System (VMCS), a novel coding system that integrates motoric variables of Proximity, Orientation, and Object–Touch, as well as vocal variables of Loudness and Rhythmicity (i.e., vocalization, pause, and switching pause). The VMCS was applied to code a joint-attention task completed by 20 parent-child dyads, including 10 with typical development (TD) and 10 with ASD. The criterion validity of the VMCS was assessed against an established coding system for JE, revealing a number of significant correlations (p < 0.05) between motoric behaviors and child engagement states and between vocal behaviors and parental attention-directing strategies. Although no significant differences were found between vocal-motor behaviors of dyads with TD and ASD, we found strong, positive associations within the ASD group among the frequencies and durations of dyadic motoric behaviors with parental vocal behaviors. Specifically, close proximity was strongly related to parental loudness (ρ = –0.90) and switching pauses of parents (ρ = 0.89) and children (ρ = 0.93). Findings support the viability of the VMCS as an instrument for coding JE using discrete vocal-motor measures, and point toward its utility in characterizing strategies used by parents to achieve JE with their children.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Counseling and Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Goldman, Sylvie
M.A., Teachers College
Published Here
January 29, 2019


Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, joint engagement, dyadic behaviors, parent-child interactions, motor behaviors, vocal rhythm