Involving Caregivers of Autistic Toddlers in Early Intervention: Common Practice or Exception to the Norm?

Jordan Lee*, Aaron J. Kaat, Megan Y. Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Family-centered practice (FCP) is a core component of early intervention (EI) associated with improved child and family outcomes, but little is known about community-based speech-language pathologists’ (SLPs’) inclusion of families in EI. Many caregivers of autistic children experience caregiving-related stress, making these intervention principles especially critical to the provision of optimal services. This study aimed to characterize EI SLPs’ use of FCP coaching strategies and the quality of caregiver–SLP relationships. Method: Participants included 25 families with an autistic toddler and their EI SLP. One intervention session for each SLP–family dyad was recorded and coded for the SLP’s use of FCP coaching strategies. Caregivers and SLPs com-pleted surveys about their working alliance, caregiver perceptions of family-centered care, and SLPs’ approach to FCP. Results: SLPs primarily use child-directed strategies without caregiver involve-ment. When involving caregivers, SLPs infrequently use coaching strategies that are important for caregiver learning and collaboration (e.g., joint planning and guided practice with feedback). However, caregivers perceived their child’s services to be highly family-centered, and caregivers and SLPs rated their working alliance to be of high quality. Conclusions: The presence of strong caregiver–SLP working alliances along-side infrequent usage of effective coaching strategies indicates that SLPs may engage caregivers in ways that are perceived to be highly collaborative but are not optimal for caregiver involvement in all aspects of their child’s services (goal setting and implementation of intervention). Consideration of family preferences and SLP beliefs about FCP will inform ways to disseminate FCPs needed to optimize families’ capacities to support their child’s development. Supplemental Material:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1755-1770
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Linguistics and Language


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