This week we summarize research about: the effectiveness of different types of autism interventions, the use of various caregiver coaching strategies in early intervention, and the bidirectional association between parent language and child characteristics.
Project AIM: Autism intervention meta-analysis for studies of young children
There are many interventions available for children with autism, but the effectiveness of these interventions is the subject of great debate. The researchers conducted a meta-analysis to summarize the effects of seven different types of intervention for children diagnosed with autism (up to 8 years old). When only including high-quality studies, they found that developmental interventions (e.g., Hanen and DIR/Floortime) and Naturalistic-Developmental-Behavioral-Interventions (“NDBIs,” such as Enhanced Milieu Teaching, Reciprocal Imitation Training, and SCERTS) had significant effects on language and social communication. However, the size of these effects was generally small. Evidence for the effectiveness of behavioral interventions was only found when including studies of low methodological quality, making it difficult to interpret the reliability of their results. Overall, this study suggests that NDBIs and developmental interventions may be effective for children with autism, and higher-quality research is still necessary to understand the effectiveness of other types of interventions.
A Review of Problem Solving and Reflection as Caregiver Coaching Strategies in Early Intervention
Coaching caregivers to implement strategies is a common framework for early intervention, but there is little consensus in the field about ways to define the strategies. The researchers reviewed studies to define coaching strategies and explore which ones are commonly used. They found that the three most common coaching strategies were: direct teaching (e.g., providing explicit information about an intervention strategy), practice (e.g., allowing the caregiver to practice a strategy either with their child or through role-play), and feedback (e.g., providing feedback about a caregiver’s use of a strategy, either in the moment or after the fact). They also found that two additional strategies important for adult learning, problem solving and reflection, were infrequently used and defined differently across studies. This work suggests that more work is needed to create consistent strategies definitions as well as to determine the effectiveness of problem solving and reflection on coaching caregivers.
The bidirectional association between maternal speech and child characteristics
When coaching parents, providers often focus on how the parent’s language impacts the child’s language. However, understanding the opposite relationship is also important. This study explored parent language characteristics that affect child outcomes as well as child characteristics that affect parent language. The researchers recorded four interactions between parents and their twin children over a 5 year span (when children were between 5 months and 5 years). They found that parent self-repetition (e.g., repeating the same word in different sentences) predicted child language comprehension at 1.5 years old and parent sensitivity (e.g., use of language specific to their child’s focus of attention) predicted child language comprehension and production at 2.5 and 5 years old. Additionally, when comparing identical and fraternal twins, they found that child genetic factors contributed to differences in parent’s self-repetition and sensitivity. This study suggests a bidirectional relationship between child factors and parent language, however further work is needed.