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autism, father-child interactions, parent training, single-subject experimentation



  1. Elder, Jennifer H.
  2. Valcante, Gregory
  3. Yarandi, Hossein
  4. White, Deborah
  5. Elder, Timothy H.


Background: Autism, or the broader category of autistic spectrum disorder, is a complex developmental disability with uncertain etiologies that appears to be increasing in prevalence. Researchers have stated that training programs for children with autism are most effective when they are individualized, address communicative intent of child behaviors, and promote social reciprocity between children and individuals with whom they have regular contact. Yet, to date, most of what is known comes solely from studying mothers, who have traditionally been the most accessible parent.


Objectives: In this study the mother-child in-home training program was modified and evaluated for its effects on the acquisition of training skills by fathers and on precommunication skills by the autistic children.


Methods: Frequency counts of skills taught to fathers and targeted child behaviors were obtained from videotaped father-child play sessions. These data were analyzed for each father-child dyad by using graphs and visual analyses, which are integral parts of single-participant experimentation. This procedure was replicated across all of the father-child dyads. Data were then grouped and analyzed using the more traditional repeated measures analysis of variance.


Results: The most significant findings were increases in father use of imitating with animation (p < .0001) and child initiating following training (p < .0004). Also noteworthy were significant increases in father responding (p < .0005) and child vocalizations (p < .05).


Discussion: Results of the study indicate that the in-home training for fathers of children with autism was effective and valued by the participating families.