A program was implemented to increase the manual signing of five profoundly retarded and four autistic youth within their daily environment. Each participant was nonvocal or minimally vocal. The program was based on modified incidental teaching strategies and was implemented by direct care personnel under supervision in an institutional setting. Specific components included rearranging the physical environment to prompt signing, altering routine staff-resident interactions to prompt, manually guide and/or reinforce signing; and conducting mini-training sessions. Additionally, staff modeled signs intermittently throughout the day. The program was sequentially implemented during two staff work shifts on each of two resident living modules. Observations conducted at four separate time periods during the day indicated that significant increases in signing occurred for all participating youth and that the increases generally maintained during follow-up checks at 5 and 17 weeks. Differential effects of the increased signing on frequency of vocalizations were noted across residents. A staff acceptability survey indicated favorable staff reports on the usefulness of signing to communicate with the youth. Results are discussed regarding the significance of manual signing for seriously developmentally disabled persons and the importance of ensuring that signing skills are used in the daily environment and not exclusively in formal training sessions. Also, areas for continued research are noted in terms of more refined analyses of client skills and subsequent progress in manual communication programs
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