Paul Yoder is a Professor in the Department of Special Education. He has expertise in social influences on communication and early language development, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Down syndrome (DS), group experimental and correlational research designs, early communication and language interventions, and observational measurement. His current research relates to managing the risk of communication disorders in infant siblings of children with ASD and comparing the efficacy of two teaching methods and two intensity levels for toddlers with ASD. Dr. Yoder is a faculty member in the Low Incidence Program and an active member of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, an interdisciplinary institute supporting research, training, and support for people with developmental disabilities.
Dr Yoder has worked with doctoral students on recent projects to answer the following research questions:
1. Are newly-available methods of measuring speech-likeness of vocalizations as scientifically useful as more expensive human-coded, short-duration, in-lab communication samples in minimally-verbal children with ASD?
2. Why is early speech-likeness of vocalizations related to later language in minimally-verbal children with ASD?
3. Is a new measure of the degree to which children’s vocalizations are contingent on adult vocalizations scientifically useful in minimally-verbal children with ASD?
4. What child skills and parental variables are different about initially preverbal toddlers with ASD that eventually develop (a) good intentional communication, (b) diverse and frequent speech-like vocal communication, (c) high receptive language, or (d) high expressive language from those that do not?
5. Is there an atypical relation between receptive and expressive language in initially preverbal children with ASD and what ramifications does this have for language intervention?
6. Which of four neural measures of word processing are most scientifically useful in minimally-verbal children with ASD?
7. Is the effect of parental linguistic input on later language dependent on how the child plays with objects and/or parent at the moment the parental linguistic input is provided in minimally-verbal children with ASD?
8. Does initial verbal imitation ability predict the relative effectiveness of a relatively new speech therapy (Broad Target Speech Recasts, BTSR) vs. a traditional therapy method in facilitating speech comprehensibility in elementary age students with DS?
9. Why is initial verbal imitation ability predictive of the efficacy of BTSR on speech comprehensibility of students with DS?
10. In initially high verbal imitators, is the superior of BTSR over a traditional speech therapy method in facilitating speech comprehensibility in students with DS due to exposure to speech recasts (a presumed active ingredient)?
11. Why do daily 1-hour sessions of a particular language intervention produce more gains in expressive language in initially preverbal children with DS than weekly 1-hour sessions of the same therapy method?
12. Which of four methods of quantifying the contingency between two events is most accurate and most interpretable?
Through two federally-funded grants, research opportunities are available for students interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in special education with an emphasis on early communication and language in young children with ASD or intellectual disabilities (including DS).