, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 77-89

The Behaviors of Parents of Children with Autism Predict the Subsequent Development of Their Children's Communication

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The present study focused on behaviors that caregivers of children with autism show during play interactions, particularly the extent to which the caregiver's behavior is synchronized with the child's focus of attention and ongoing activity. The study had two major findings. First, caregivers of children with autism synchronized their behaviors to their children's attention and activities as much as did caregivers of children with developmental delay and caregivers of typically developing children, matched on language capacities. Second, caregivers of children with autism who showed higher levels of synchronization during initial play interactions had children who developed superior joint attention and language over a period of 1, 10, and 16 years than did children of caregivers who showed lower levels of synchronization initially. These findings suggest a developmental link between parental sensitivity and the child's subsequent development of communication skills in children with autism. Implications for parent training interventions are discussed.