The Collateral Effects of Joint Attention Training on Social Initiations, Positive Affect, Imitation, and Spontaneous Speech for Young Children with Autism

  • Christina Whalen
  • Laura Schreibman
  • Brooke Ingersoll


Joint attention may be a core deficit in autism which underlies the abnormal development of later emerging social-communication behaviors. Given this theory, researchers have suggested that teaching young children with autism to engage in joint attention may lead to collateral increases in other non-targeted social-communication behaviors. In this study, children with autism participated in a 10-week joint attention training program and collateral changes in non-targeted behaviors were assessed. Following participation in the intervention, positive collateral changes were observed in social initiations, positive affect, imitation, play, and spontaneous speech. Results support the hypothesis that teaching joint attention skills leads to improvement in a variety of related skills and have implications for the treatment of young children with autism.


Joint attention Language Social skills Play Imitation 



This research was funded in part from support by U.S. Public Health Grant No. MH39434 from the National Institute of Mental Health. This paper was also supported by a center grant from the National Institute of Mental Health No. U54MH066399, which is part of the NIH STAART Centers Program. We are grateful to all of the families who participated in this research. We also are appreciative of the undergraduate research assistants who helped in the implementation of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Whalen
    • 1
    • 4
  • Laura Schreibman
    • 2
  • Brooke Ingersoll
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.University of Washington Autism CenterSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  3. 3.Oregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  4. 4.SeattleUSA
  5. 5.Lewis and Clark CollegePortlandUSA

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