Children with autism show a characteristic deficit in the ability to coordinate interest in external objects or events with other people. This is referred to as joint attention, which typically develops between 9-15 months of age. Based on this observation, these researchers will focus on a home based intervention protocol called the Joint Attention Mediated Learning (JAML) model to assess the relationship between the intervention and targeted child outcomes. JAML incorporates research-based knowledge of early development in autism and the demonstrated importance of joint attention as a critical foundation for language, social, and cognitive development. JAML also incorporates developmentally appropriate approaches, family centered principles, socially based learning, and infusion within natural routines to promote generalization.
Pediatricians, early intervention providers, and diagnostic clinics will identify potential participants using autism screening protocols. With weekly guidance from trained, master's level interventionists, parents will mediate child learning to promote joint attention through the JAML four-phase intervention protocol as operationalized in clinician and parent manuals. The researchers will be examining the ability of the child to develop joint attention during early intervention and follow up. In light of well researched findings that joint attention predicts social-communicative competence in children with autism, this outcome measure is significant. Implementation and standardization across three sites will maximize access to participants and incorporate the expertise of three investigators, who each bring unique yet complementary abilities and skills to this project.