Language Outcomes of the Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (PLAY) Project Home Consultation model—An Extended Analysis

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The current study is a post-hoc analysis of data from the original randomized control trial of the Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (PLAY) Home Consultation program, a parent-mediated, DIR/Floortime based early intervention program for children with ASD (Solomon, Van Egeren, Mahone, Huber, & Zimmerman, 2014). We examined 22 children from the original RCT who received the PLAY program. Children were split into two groups (high and lower functioning) based on the ADOS module administered prior to intervention. Fifteen-minute parent-child video sessions were coded through the use of CHILDES transcription software. Child and maternal language, communicative behaviors, and communicative functions were assessed in the natural language samples both pre- and post-intervention. Results demonstrated significant improvements in both child and maternal behaviors following intervention. There was a significant increase in child verbal and non-verbal initiations and verbal responses in whole group analysis. Total number of utterances, word production, and grammatical complexity all significantly improved when viewed across the whole group of participants; however, lexical growth did not reach significance. Changes in child communicative function were especially noteworthy, and demonstrated a significant increase in social interaction and a significant decrease in non-interactive behaviors. Further, mothers demonstrated an increase in responsiveness to the child’s conversational bids, increased ability to follow the child’s lead, and a decrease in directiveness. When separated for analyses within groups, trends emerged for child and maternal variables, suggesting greater gains in use of communicative function in both high and low groups over changes in linguistic structure. Additional analysis also revealed a significant inverse relationship between maternal responsiveness and child non-interactive behaviors; as mothers became more responsive, children’s non-engagement was decreased. Such changes further suggest that changes in learned skills following PLAY parent training may result in improvements in child social interaction and language abilities.