Parent Responsive Direction in Play and Children’s Language and Social Development in ASD

Friday, May 12, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
B. Caplan1, A. Eisenhower2 and J. Blacher3, (1)Psychology, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, (2)University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, (3)University of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA
Background: Parent responsive communication, or that which is contingent on a child’s interest and focus of attention, predicts gains in language and social functioning for children with typical development (Tamis-LaMonda, Bornstein & Baumwell, 2001). Children with autism, who demonstrate difficulties in understanding social-pragmatic cues such as joint attention (Mundy, Sigman, Ungerer & Sherman, 1986), may be particularly dependent on parenting that is responsive to their current interest and focus. In a study of 28 preschool-aged children with autism, Siller and Sigman (2008), demonstrated that early maternal responsiveness predicted language acquisition across three years. However, in studies of youth without ASD, parent responsiveness has shown to differentially impact young children as a product of cognitively ability (Green, Caplan & Baker, 2014), with parenting having a greater impact for children with lower cognitive ability. It is unclear what role cognitive ability plays in the influence of parent responsiveness in ASD.

Objectives: (1) To examine how parental responsive direction during parent-child play relates to concurrent and prospective child language and social skills. (2) To assess cognitive ability as a moderator of the relationship between parent responsive direction and child functioning.

Methods: This study examined language and social skills in 4- to 7-year-old children with a confirmed ASD diagnosis (N=170) using data obtained from a multi-site longitudinal study collected at three time-points across 1.5 years. All eligible children met clinical criteria for ASD diagnoses according the ADOS-2 and exhibited IQ ≥ 50 as assessed by the WPPSI-III (Weschler, 2002). A coding system of parent verbal direction that coincided with (responsive direction) or deterred from (interferingdirection) child ongoing activity was implemented during a 10-minute parent-child free play interaction. Children’s language abilities were assessed using a standardized assessment of spoken language (CASL; Carrow-Woolfolk, 1999) at time-points 1 and 3, and children’s social skills were assessed using parent and teacher report of the SSiS (Gresham & Elliott, 2008) at all three time-points.

Results: Preliminary analysis with a subsample (n=100), reveals positive associations between parent responsive direction and concurrent child spoken language (r= .32, p<.05) but not child social skills. Parent interfering direction was negatively associated with child spoken language (r= -.36, p<.05) and social skills (r= -.24, p<.05). Future analyses will utilize multiple regression and latent growth modeling in MPLUS to assess parent direction (responsive, interfering) as it predicts change in child language and social skills, respectively, over time. Analyses will control for child negativity and engagement with toys during the interaction. Child cognitive ability will be assessed as a moderator by adding the appropriate interaction terms to the model.

Conclusions: Parental responsive and interfering direction demonstrate concurrent relationships with child language and/or social skills. However, given evidence that child behavior predicts later parenting in ASD (Markus et al., 2000), it will be important to employ longitudinal methods to predict downstream child development while controlling for prior levels of child functioning. Findings will serve to characterize dyadic interaction styles that are predictive of positive developmental outcomes in ASD, and may inform family-focused interventions.