Improving Functional Language and Social Motivation with a Parent-Mediated Intervention for Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Recent research suggests that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may now be reliably identified in later infancy, highlighting the need for empirically-validated interventions for infants and toddlers with early symptoms of ASD. Using a multiple baseline design across 15- to 21-month-old toddlers, this study implemented a brief, parent-mediated, Pivotal Response Treatment program, focusing on improving expressive communication. The results indicated that verbal communication improved as a consequence of the intervention, with concomitant improvements in untreated areas for all participants. Following the intervention, symptoms of autism decreased and parents reported satisfaction with the program’s ease of implementation and observed child gains. The results are discussed in terms of developing very early interventions to improve developmental trajectories for infants and toddlers.

Keywords: Autism; Early intervention; Pivotal response treatment; Social communication; Toddlers.