Defining turn taking in intervention for young children with autism: A review of the literature

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Autism, Early childhood, Intervention, Preverbal communication, Turn taking


Turn taking is a form of preverbal, dyadic, reciprocal communication that may support key areas of development, such as language and joint attention, and may serve different functions depending on each communicative partner’s intent. As such, it has been incorporated in interventions targeting various outcomes in young children with autism. However, there is inconsistency in how researchers define turn taking and explorations on how turn taking is defined across these interventions have not yet been reported in the current literature. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to investigate how turn taking is operationally defined based on communicative intent in the current literature on interventions for young children with autism and to explore additional intervention content to provide fuller context to how turn taking has been promoted. A search was conducted across databases to identify intervention studies for young children with autism that incorporated an embedded turn-taking component. Peer-reviewed articles were then coded based on turn-taking communicative intent, and additional intervention content was categorized. Findings across 14 studies indicate variability among turn-taking definitions both in communicative function and form. The results also reveal that turn taking has been promoted through different intervention approaches that incorporate diverse agents, settings, and methodology. Researchers and practitioners should consider specificity and clarity when defining turn taking to most optimally meet the developmental needs of young children with autism in future interventions.


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How to Cite

Lee, K., & Staggs, A. (2021). Defining turn taking in intervention for young children with autism: A review of the literature. Journal of Childhood, Education & Society, 2(2), 139–153.