Toddlers with autism have poor joint attention skills. Joint attention skills include
pointing to objects, following another person’s gaze, and responding to invitations to join
in a social interaction. Improved joint attention skills may lead to better verbal ability
as the child ages. This study teaches caregivers how to help their toddlers with autism
develop joint attention skills.
Young children with autism show impairment in joint attention. The impairment affects their
ability to sustain a shared interest in social interaction and to use specific joint
attention skills, such as pointing and showing. The importance of joint attention is
underscored by data suggesting these skills are important to later language skills.
Targeting joint attention deficits in developmentally young children using familiar
caregivers may result in better child language outcomes. This study will teach caregivers
how to initiate and maintain episodes of joint engagement with their children.
Participants will be randomized to either the intervention group or to a wait list control
group. Each caregiver and child in the intervention group will participate in 24 1-hour
sessions, 3 times a week for 8 weeks. In these sessions, caregivers will be taught 10
different modules for teaching joint attention skills to their children. Outcome measures
will include language and joint attention skills in the child and caregiver adherence to the
intervention protocols. Children and caregivers will be assessed at baseline, during the
course of the 8-week intervention, and 10 weeks after the end of the intervention.
Participants assigned to the wait list group will begin the intervention at Week 12.
- Diagnosis of autism based on Autism Diagnostic Interview–Revised (ADI-R) and Autism
Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) criteria
- Medical or psychiatric diagnoses other than autism that potentially contribute to
developmental delay (e.g., genetic syndromes)