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Supporting Parents to Facilitate Communication and Joint Attention in Their Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Two Pilot Studies

Prelock, Patricia A.; Calhoun, James; Morris, Hope; Platt, Gretchen

doi: 10.1097/TLD.0b013e318227bd3f
Original Articles

THIS ARTICLE describes 2 pilot studies partnering early interventionists and families in targeting social communication and joint attention abilities for young children with autism spectrum disorders. Both parent-intervention trainings involved opportunities for interventionists to partner with families. One pilot utilized More than Words (MTW; Sussman, 1999), a parent-training program designed to facilitate communication and vocabulary development. Outcomes of the MTW study were measured as changes in children's vocabulary development and social communication skills and parents' perceptions of changes in their responsiveness to their child. The second pilot-trained interventionists to collaborate with parents in selecting 1 of 2 approaches to teach joint attention: a discrete trial plus pivotal response training based in behaviorist theory or developmental-mediated learning, based in social–interactionist theory. This collaboration involved interviewing families about their current interaction styles, the structure of their day, and their typical routines to help determine if a more behavioral or naturalistic approach was best matched to the family's preferences. It also involved the collaborative selection of motivating toys and activities to be used during intervention. Outcomes of the Joint Attention Training (JAT) study were measured primarily as impressions on the part of interventionists about the process of negotiating and implementing intervention approaches with parents. Findings for the MTW pilot-confirmed previous research identifying positive change for children in their social interaction and vocabulary development when their parents are engaged and trained as language interventionists. Interventionists' impressions after JAT also were positive for collaborating with families to select intervention approaches that best fit their needs and priorities.

College of Nursing and Health Sciences (Dr Prelock); Departments of Psychology (Dr Calhoun), Communication Sciences and Disorders (Ms Morris and Dr Prelock), and Special Education/Autism (Ms Platt), University of Vermont, Burlington.

Corresponding Author: Patricia A. Prelock, College of Nursing & Health Sciences, University of Vermont, 105 Rowell, 106 Carrigan Dr, Burlington, VT 05405 (e-mail:

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins