Supporting Families and their Toddlers on the Autism Spectrum

November 14, 2012

The Family Implemented TEACCH for Toddlers study (FITT, renamed from Home TEACCHing Program to emphasize the project's relationship with families) recently finished its first of three funded years and the team has many accomplishments to celebrate. Based on structured teaching and naturalistic strategies, this family-implemented approach provides coaching and support for families to increase interaction and engagement with their young children with ASD across daily routines. Interventionists provide 24 weekly sessions held across a 6-month intervention time period, which include four clinic-based parent group sessions (3 families per group) plus 20 in-home intervention sessions. FITT introduces families to the concepts of structured teaching, and provides families a set of strategies for working, playing, and communicating with their toddler.

Currently 22 of the projected 60 families have enrolled in the study, with 13 randomly assigned to the intervention condition. The study team has developed a comprehensive manual that provides guidance for interventionists, activity ideas, parent handouts and homework, and a comprehensive photo library of materials to share with families.

Early data around feasibility and acceptability of the intervention are promising, with high rates of intervention fidelity, strong parent adherence to intervention strategies, and social validity data that indicates that families strongly endorse both the intervention strategies as well as the impact of the intervention on their child's skills.

Next Steps for Project                                       

The FITT team is committed to recruiting and retaining families from rural communities. We have recently increased recruitment efforts in rural areas through collaboration with local TEACCH centers and early intervention agencies to support efforts around early identification, and to connect with already identified families who have limited access and opportunity to receive services for their toddlers on the autism spectrum.

Project Team

FITT is an inter-disciplinary project, led by Co-PIs Dr. Lauren Turner-Brown, clinical psychologist, and Dr. Kara Hume, special educator, housed at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (http://www.cidd.unc.edu). Project staff includes social workers, allied health professionals, and a number of student and community volunteers. For more information about the project, please contact Project Coordinator Laurie Moses, at Laurie.moses@cidd.unc.edu.

Program Reference

HRSA MCHB grant R40 MC 22648-01, Efficacy of the Home TEACCHing Program for Toddlers with Autism