International Meeting for Autism Research: Evaluation of a Sibling-Mediated Imitation Intervention for Young Children with Autism

Evaluation of a Sibling-Mediated Imitation Intervention for Young Children with Autism

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Franklin Hall B Level 4 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
3:00 PM
K. Meyer , Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
B. Ingersoll , Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Background: Children with autism have significant difficulties with social-communicative skills. Both parents and peers have been successful at implementing interventions targeting social interactions in these children. However, very few interventions have trained siblings as treatment providers. Siblings may be effective intervention providers because they serve as similar-aged peers who spend a significant amount of time with the child with autism in a variety of contexts.  Previous research suggests that reciprocal imitation is a promising intervention target for children with autism. 
Objectives: This study investigated (1) whether school-aged children could learn to use Reciprocal Imitation Training, a naturalistic imitation intervention designed to teach reciprocal imitation skills, with their siblings with autism, (2) whether the intervention would lead to gains in imitation and other social-communication skills in the children with autism, (3) whether the results would generalize to different settings, materials, and play partners, and maintain at follow-up, (4) whether changes seen during this intervention would be socially valid, and (5) whether the intervention would lead to changes in the sibling relationship.
Methods: This study used a non-concurrent multiple-baseline design across 4 boys with autism and 6 typically-developing siblings.
Preliminary Results: Preliminary results suggest that siblings are able to learn and use the intervention strategies with their brothers with autism. In addition, the children with autism showed some gains in imitation, language, and joint attention. However, response patterns were variable, with different children showing gains in different skills. In general, siblings generalized their skills quite well; however, the children with autism rarely showed generalization of their skill gains. Some skill gains did maintain at follow-up for both the typical siblings and the children with autism, but patterns of maintenance varied among children. The intervention did not appear to have a clear positive or negative impact on the sibling relationship; however, both parents and typically developing siblings reported high satisfaction with the intervention, including enjoyment of the intervention, skills increases for both siblings, and an increase in the quality and/or enjoyment of playtime between siblings.
Conclusions: Overall, these results suggest that sibling-implemented Reciprocal Imitation Training may be a promising intervention for young children with autism.
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