Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 655-664

First online:

The Collateral Effects of Joint Attention Training on Social Initiations, Positive Affect, Imitation, and Spontaneous Speech for Young Children with Autism

  • Christina WhalenAffiliated withUniversity of Washington Autism Center Email author 
  • , Laura SchreibmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California
  • , Brooke IngersollAffiliated withOregon Health & Science UniversityLewis and Clark College

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Joint attention may be a core deficit in autism which underlies the abnormal development of later emerging social-communication behaviors. Given this theory, researchers have suggested that teaching young children with autism to engage in joint attention may lead to collateral increases in other non-targeted social-communication behaviors. In this study, children with autism participated in a 10-week joint attention training program and collateral changes in non-targeted behaviors were assessed. Following participation in the intervention, positive collateral changes were observed in social initiations, positive affect, imitation, play, and spontaneous speech. Results support the hypothesis that teaching joint attention skills leads to improvement in a variety of related skills and have implications for the treatment of young children with autism.


Joint attention Language Social skills Play Imitation