The purpose of this dissertation is to compare the efficacy of Melodic Based Communication Therapy (MBCT) to traditional speech and language therapy for eliciting speech in nonverbal children with autism. Efficacy was assessed by number of: verbalizations, correct words, words reported by parent, and imitative attempts. Additionally it examines the effect of exposure to MBCT on social language abilities as measured by score on the Pragmatic Language Skills Inventory (PLSI); the effect of age on the response to treatment, and the predictors of overall effectiveness of treatment. Participants were 12 nonverbal children with autism ages 5 through 7 randomly assigned to the MBCT or traditional therapy group. Measures included: a criterion referenced test administered weekly over 5 consecutive weeks, parent survey administered pre and post therapy, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test 4th Edition (PPVTIV), Autism Diagnostic Observational Schedule (ADOS) and PLSI. The MBCT group progressed significantly in number of verbalizations after weeks 1, 2, 3, and 4, while the traditional group progressed significantly after weeks 4 and 5. The MBCT group progressed significantly in number of correct words after weeks 1 and 3, while the traditional group progressed significantly after weeks 4 and 5. Parents reported a significant number of words heard externally for the MBCT group (p=.04). Participants in the MBCT group had more imitative attempts (p=.02). The MBCT group showed significant improvement in PLSI score (p=.04). All participants irrespective of age demonstrated progress as a result of treatment. Receptive vocabulary score at baseline and imitative ability were significant predictors of response to treatment. Combined, they accounted for 75% of variability in the improvement in the number of correct words following treatment Results suggest MBCT is a valid means of treatment for nonverbal children with autism. The MBCT group responded earlier, showed more progress in the home setting, had more imitative attempts, and showed greater improvements in social language scores. Additionally stronger receptive language scores and imitative abilities may lead to better therapeutic outcomes regardless of the age of the child. Further research with a larger sample size is needed to examine the full benefit of MBCT.

LLU Discipline

Rehabilitation Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences


School of Allied Health Professions

First Advisor

Mainess, Karen J.

Second Advisor

Daher, Noha S.

Third Advisor

Roddy, Sarah

Fourth Advisor

Schwab, Ernest

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Autism Spectrum Disorder - Child; Autistic Disorder - Therapy; Nonverbal communication - child; Speech Disorders - Therapy; Language Therapy - Methods;

Subject - Local

Melodic Based Communication Therapy; Pragmatic Language Skills Inventory; Non-verbal children



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives