Social ABCs Randomized Control Trial

Brian JA, Smith IM, Zwaigenbaum L, Bryson SE (2017). Cross-site randomized control trial of the Social ABCs caregiver-mediated intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 10(10), 1700-1711.

Summary: A multi-site randomized control trial (RCT) was completed where 62 parent-child pairs were randomly assigned to one of two possible conditions. One group received the Social ABCs program (the “treatment” group), while the other group received any other available community services (the “control” group). The study showed that the group who received the Social ABCs experienced a significant increase in the child’s functional communication (responding to parents’ language opportunities, and initiating), with more modest increases in child smiling, and looking at (or socially orienting to) their parent. The treatment group also experienced a significant increase in parents’ smiling and their self-confidence after completing the Social ABCs. Parents in the Social ABCs group were able to learn the intervention strategies to a high level of fidelity. Parents in the control group were offered the Social ABCs following their “control” phase.

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Social ABCs Pilot Feasibility Study

Brian JA, Smith IM, Zwaigenbaum L, Roberts W, Bryson S. (2016). The Social ABCs caregiver-mediated intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: Feasibility, acceptability, and evidence of promise from a multi-site pilot study. Autism Research, 9(8), 899-912.

Summary: This pilot study aimed to evaluate how feasible the Social ABCs program and intervention model is, and the acceptability amongst the parent participants. After completing the Social ABCs, which included 12 weeks of parent coaching with 20 parent‐toddler dyads, video-coded data showed that parents were able to learn the intervention techniques and parents reported that the intervention was highly acceptable to them. Toddlers in the study made significant gains in their functional communication skills (response to parents and initiations). Following the intervention, toddlers also looked at, and shared smiles with their parents more than they did before the intervention. Parent strategy use was associated with child gains. This study concluded that training parents as mediators is a practical and highly acceptable approach to working with toddlers aged 12-36 months, thus providing a cost‐effective opportunity for intervention at a young age as the very first signs of ASD emerge.

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Social ABCs Child Care Study

Brian JA, Bernardi K, Dowds E, Easterbrook R, MacWilliam S, Bryson S. (2017). Feasibility of training early childhood educators in a community child care setting using a caregiver-mediated intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 5(5), 93-102.

Summary: The goal of this study was to implement and evaluate the practicality of the Social ABCs intervention into a community child care setting by training front-line early childhood educators (ECEs).  After receiving live coaching, the ECE participants attained a high level of fidelity in applying the intervention strategies, which was further maintained after a 3-month period of non-contact with the training team. What this study found was that the model of training front-line child care staff in a community child care setting is possible using a short-term training approach.

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Overview of Early ASD Signs and Intervention Development

Brian JA, Bryson SE, Zwaigenbaum L. Autism spectrum disorder in infancy: Developmental considerations in treatment targets (2015). Current Opinions in Neurology. 28(2), 117-23.

Summary: This study summarized current knowledge about very early development in ASD in order to identify and recommend key targets for early intervention. As research continues to study various techniques and timing of interventions, it can be argued that evaluating the impact of tailored approaches addressing early signs of ASD is important, especially before the symptoms of ASD are fully expressed. Attention to how the community offers ASD-specific interventions for infants and toddlers is also needed, with consideration for how practical, cost-effective, and sustainable each intervention is.

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Supporting Families

Brian JA, Bryson SE, Zwaigenbaum L, Cosgrove S, Roberts W. (2018) Supporting the families of high-risk Infants who have an older sibling with ASD: Collaboration, consultation, and care. In Handbook of Parent-Implemented Interventions for Very Young Children with Autism (M Siller and L Morgan, Eds.), pp. 45-57. Springer, Cham.

Summary: Many families who are parenting an infant or toddler with emerging developmental concerns are also parenting an older child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). After gathering personal experiences from families and reflecting on findings of an ongoing infant sibling study, this chapter discusses the ways parents manage and monitor the developmental differences in their young child. In addition to appreciating families’ experiences and perspectives, this chapter also highlights a collaborative model between families and professionals which helps in monitoring development, discussing concerns with families, and the processes by which families may be best supported through their journeys.

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