The Social ABCs caregiver-mediated intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: Feasibility, acceptability, and evidence of promise from a multisite study

Autism Res. 2016 Aug;9(8):899-912. doi: 10.1002/aur.1582. Epub 2015 Dec 21.


The Social ABCs is a parent-mediated intervention for toddlers with suspected or confirmed autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We undertook a multi-site pilot study to evaluate feasibility and acceptability, and to identify trends in child and parent behavior to inform future research using a larger sample and a rigorous research design. The program involved 12 weeks of parent coaching, followed by 12 weeks' implementation, and 3-month follow-up assessment for 20 parent-toddler dyads (age range: 12-32 months). Parents successfully learned the techniques and rated the intervention as highly acceptable. Paired samples t-tests revealed significant gains in children's functional communication (responsivity, initiations), and language gains (age-equivalents on standardized measures) commensurate with typical developmental rates. Significant increases in shared smiling and social orienting also emerged, but were attenuated at follow-up. Parents' fidelity was positively associated with child responsivity. Training parents as mediators is a feasible and highly acceptable approach that provides a potentially cost-effective opportunity for intensive intervention at a very young age at the first signs of ASD risk. Child and parent gains in several key variables demonstrate the promise of this intervention. Autism Res 2016, 9: 899-912. © 2015 The Authors Autism Research published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of International Society for Autism Research.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; caregiver-mediated; communication; early intervention; high-risk; parent-mediated; pivotal response treatment; smiling; toddlers.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / therapy*
  • Canada
  • Child, Preschool
  • Early Intervention, Educational / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Behavior*