Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, vii, 151 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Kristin V Christodulu

Committee Members

Elana Gordis, Melissa L Rinaldi


Autism spectrum disorder, Early intervention, Group delivery model, Parent training, Parents of autistic children, Children with autism spectrum disorders, Autistic children, Social interaction in children, Toddlers

Subject Categories



The current study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of an Early Start Denver Model-based (ESDM; Rogers & Dawson, 2010) group intervention for parents of infants and toddlers, ages 12 to 48 months, diagnosed with or at genetic risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This project consisted of a six-week intervention program in which parents attended training sessions twice a week for 60-90 minutes per session. The training sessions used didactic instruction to teach parents how to elicit social communication from their very young children. The topic areas were based on the ESDM parent manual (Rogers, Dawson, & Vismara, 2012), and included skills such as capturing attention, eliciting social smiles and joint attention, fostering functional and pretend play, and beginning to evoke simple speech. Parents were also taught about evidence-based methods for teaching young children with ASD, including how to carry out functional behavioral assessments, how to provide appropriate and contingent reinforcement, and how to implement visual supports. Initial ASD symptom severity was assessed with the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2; Lord et al., 2012). Pairs of parents were matched on their child’s ASD symptom severity and age. Matched pairs were then randomly assigned to participate in either the immediate intervention group or the delayed treatment control group. Child and parent outcomes were assessed using the Parenting Stress Index, Fourth Edition, Short Form (PSI-4-SF; Abidin, 2012), a program-specific parent knowledge questionnaire developed for this study, the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDI; Fenson, 2007), the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSoC; Johnston & Mash, 1989), and a videotaped play-based observation task. The implications of the findings, the utility of brief group training programs for parents of very young children with ASD, and future directions for research are discussed.

Included in

Psychology Commons