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Using Relationship-Focused Intervention To Enhance The Social—Emotional Functioning Of Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Gerald Mahoney, Frida Perales

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This study investigates the effectiveness of relationship-focused intervention on the social and emotional well-being of children with autism spectrum disorders. Relationship-focused intervention is a general approach to developmental intervention that encourages and supports parents to enhance their use of responsive interactive strategies during routine interactions with their children. The sample for this study consisted of 20 young children diagnosed with autism or pervasive developmental disorder and their parents. Parents and children received weekly intervention sessions for 8 to 14 months. These sessions focused on encouraging parents to use a Responsive Teaching curriculum to promote children's socioemotional development. Comparisons of pre- and postassessments indicated that the intervention was successful at encouraging mothers to engage in more responsive interactions with their children. Increases in mothers' responsiveness were associated with significant improvements in children's social interaction, as well as in standardized measures of their social— emotional functioning. These results indicate that relationship-focused intervention holds much promise for enhancing the social—emotional functioning of children with autism spectrum disorders.