Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > A Responsive Teaching Intervention for Parents of Children Identified as at Risk for an Autism Spectrum Disorder at 12 Months

This study evaluated the novel application of an early intervention, Responsive Teaching (RT), with 14-18 month olds who have been identified as being at risk for an eventual diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at 12 months. Children falling in the 95th percentile and above as indicated by overall risk status on the First Year Inventory (FYI), a screener, were invited to come in for a Time 1 evaluation (n=23). Children who met the criteria for the highest risk for ASD after this extensive assessment were randomized into treatment (n=9) and control (n=4) conditions. Parent-child dyads in the treatment group received 6 months of modified RT intervention, while the control group was referred for community services. The aim of this study was twofold. The first goal was to determine whether there is evidence that RT is an appropriate intervention for this specific population, parents of 12-month-olds at risk for ASD. Research has suggested a more intrusively directive interactional style employed by caregivers forces children to shift their focus of attention and may result in negative developmental outcomes. Level of caregiver directiveness was found to be positively correlated with the degree of autism displayed by the child (r=.458, p<.05), which suggests an intervention (such as RT) aiming to reduce directiveness to a more optimal, less intrusive level, would be appropriate for families of children at risk for ASD. The second goal of the study was to evaluate whether the intervention was achieving one of its aims, that is, to increase responsiveness and decrease directiveness displayed by caregivers when interacting with their children. Two two-sample t-tests were conducted to compare the mean change in responsiveness and directiveness between the treatment and control groups. Likely due to the small sample size (n=13), results were not statistically significant, but the results were in the expected direction, and confirmed the trend that members of the experimental group increased responsiveness and decreased directiveness more than members of the control group. These findings suggest that parental interactional styles may potentially become more productive through intervention.