A variety of naturalistic interventions aim to account for increasing adult’s responsiveness to the child and the quality of social engagement with the therapist and parent. In previous research (IMFAR 2012: 131.075) we found that adult-mediated intervention without direct naturalistic behavior intervention in the school setting facilitates the child’s quality of play behaviors. Nevertheless, the child’s pro-social responsivity on social interaction bits of others and child initiated engagement was achieved only with limitation to the guidance of an adult. As a consequence a previous EIBI program (Fava & Strauss, 2011) was adapted, including quasi-natural environments (small class-room & play groups) into clinical settings, combining parent and teacher treatment provision (Fava et al., 2012).
The aim of the current study was (1) to evaluate the effects of an EIBI program on play behaviors and joint engagement with and without parent inclusion in the playground teaching; (2) to understand the parent-child interaction characteristics that best facilitate social learning opportunities.
30 children with ASDs were enrolled in a comprehensive EIBI program, with 16 children (14M:2F; Mage=45.7 months, SD=10.22) receiving naturalistic playground teaching without parent inclusion, whereas 14 children (10M:4F; Mage=38.8 months, SD=9.98) followed the parent inclusion condition. At baseline, and each 4 weeks (4 total measurement-points) children’s social play and peer engagement was observed during free play for a total period of 12 weeks. The Play Observation Scale (Rubin, 2001) has been utilized to obtain information on child play behaviors, the Playground Observation of Peer Engagement (POPE; Kasari, 2005) on the child’s joint engagement stages, a system by Anderson et al. (2004) on the quality of social interactions and the Maternal Behavior Rating Scale-R (Mahoney et al. 1999) on parent-child interaction styles. Data collection and analysis currently needs to be terminated. Preliminary results indicate that children following the parent inclusion condition show an accelerated growth in play behaviors and engagement stages. These indications are the basis for detailed analysis.
Study aim (1) will be addressed applying General Linear Models comparing progress in play and peer engagement between both treatment conditions. We do expect to verify the preliminary result of an accelerated child development in the parent inclusion condition across all measurement points. Further, after adjusting for child characteristics we will control progress for confounding variables such as e.g. quality of supervision, group size etc. As effectiveness of parent inclusion in playground teaching over solely staff teaching seems supported, study aim (2) will examine the influence of parent-child interaction styles. Applying regression analysis, it is expected that parental responsivity generally predicts increased social engagement, while a more directive style facilitates cognitive growth in object play. Additional moderator-mediator models aim to specify the role of parent affective behaviors that may differentially affect the linkage between parental interaction style and child behaviors.
By identifying parent-child interaction styles that influence teaching strategies and promote the child’s play and joint engagement, the results of this study can suggest models for parental teaching that can be incorporated into early childhood interventions.
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