The Early Social Interaction Project (ESI) is a demonstration and research project in the FSU Autism Institute funded by the US Department of Education, Autism Speaks, and the National Institute of Mental Health. ESI provides early intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families. ESI teaches parents how to support their child’s social communication and play in everyday activities. In collaboration with the University of Michigan Autism & Communication Disorders Center, we are conducting a longitudinal randomized clinical trial of ESI over 5 years with 100 toddlers with ASD at 18 months of age at the start of treatment and their families. The findings of this study will provide important evidence of the effects of parent-implemented intervention for toddlers with ASD and will substantiate the importance of autism screening for toddlers so that families can access early intervention.
ESI is a community-based, early intervention program for toddlers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families. ESI provides services through two parent intervention programs, parent-implemented intervention (PII) and information, education and support (IES). PII builds upon parents’ knowledge and skills to enable them to support their child’s communication, social, and play skills in everyday routines, activities, and settings. The interventionist teaches parents new skills during activities that are functional, predictable, and meaningful for the child and that are likely to occur in everyday activities. The interventionist utilizes a three-dimensional collaborative consultation model with parents: 1) collaborating with parents on goal setting and monitoring progress; 2) teaching parents how to implement intervention strategies by demonstrating, guided practice, providing feedback, and problem solving; and 3) providing information and resources to establish a supportive environment and enhance parents’ confidence and competence in their ability to encourage their child’s growth and development. The model addresses the special needs of infants and toddlers with ASD by having parents learn how to implement goals and objectives within everyday routines, activities, and settings to ensure the level of intensity needed for meaningful outcomes, using methods that are acceptable to families, portable, and consistent with Part C of the IDEA. IES is organized for families to receive information about social communication development and in toddler playgroups in a relaxed, supportive, child-friendly setting that provides the opportunity to talk with a professional and meet other parents.