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 Spotlight on Early Intervention Resources

NBC Admin - Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Spotlight on Early Intervention Resources

This month for the #dobetter movement, we focused on early intervention and how to intervene early better. We started the month with a video review of a typically developing 2 year old interacting with his mom with during intervention styles. A voice over explaining that video can be found on our YouTube page

Our webinar for this month focused on topics not covered in behavior analytic graduate programs relating to early intervention and typical development. We discussed the importance of focusing on the social components for autism and making sure skills are broken down far enough. This webinar will be available on our website by June of 2018.

If you would like to watch it for free in the meantime, check out our Facebook page where a post with the link can be found!

For our blog this month, we are discussing resources related to early intervention that all behavior analysts should be familiar with. There are many helpful websites and books and also decision trees that can be used when working with such a young population. It is our duty as behavior analysts not only to become experts in the science of behavior analysis but also the literature and resources related to the populations we serve.

Book recommendations

The following books are must haves if you are providing early intervention:

  1. The Early Start Denver Model manual and/or their parent book An Early Start for your Child with Autism. Both of these books provide wonderful information about child development and its relationship to autism. Specific activities are provided that can be implemented with children with language delays to start promoting skill acquisition in those areas in a more naturalistic setting
  2. Meaningful Differences by Hart and Risely. This book was published in 1994 and focuses on typical child development of language based around interaction with parents. It reviews the research conducted by Hart and Risley in the natural environment and provides important implications for what we should be targeting with families.
  3. More than Words by Fern Sussman. This book is for parents and it isn’t “evidence-based” but it providers a wonderful resource for parents and interventionist when trying to set-up and promote language activities for the birth to three population


Every behavior analyst should book mark, print, and/or review closely the websites listed below as they are all geared toward the birth to three population and provide a wealth of information about typical and atypical child development

  1. - this website has the 16 by 16 resources that focus on gestures, play skills, cognitive skills, etc that all children should have by 16 months. This provides behavior analysts a way to ensure they are fully accounting for all skills that the EI population they are working with should have as we are often not taught about the skills listed in these lookbooks. ***this website also has a button for free screener for any child age 9-18 months. This can be given to all friends and family to help support the research in early identification!
  2. this website is focused more specifically on autism but provides additional free resources for families and interventionists relating to the most up to date research in EI with children with autism. There is also a course that is geared at parents and EI providers that provides video examples and step by step guidance on how to engage children with autism at this age based on a naturalistic developmental approach.
  3. is a website focused on providing resources and support for early childhood development. This website is focused on "typical" development as well as how to promote learning for children with disabilities. Check it out for more information on typical development as well as professional development opportunities related to EI.

Decision trees

One of the most difficult things about providing early intervention is individualizing intervention to meet the unique needs of each child. The goal should be to do as much teaching as possible in the natural environment. We are joining these children at a very young age in their lives and the way we work with them sets the stage for future learning. If we as the interventionists go straight in with too intrusive of a teaching procedure and too many supports, we are potentially setting this child up for many failures in the future. Maybe the child isn’t currently learning from the natural environment but we can really interfere with that process if we create a situation where their learning history becomes incredibly Artificial and they experience learning only under very structured settings. While only learning to learn in these structured environments, they are also missing out on learning to learn in the natural environment and it can make that experience much more difficult for them in the future. That’s not to say structured environments and supports should never be used but they need to be carefully timed, planned, implemented, and faded. And if a child doesn’t need a more structured environment, the natural environment should be used as much as possible.

But, how do we know what type of environment to use with a child? This is especially difficult for behavior analysts who are just starting in the field and don’t have many examples to go off of for making that decision. Over time, these decisions can be easier to make as one experiences different types of children and sees how they respond to different intervention styles. My ultimate dream is that research eventually goes down the lie of having a prescriptive process where children start with certain intervention styles based on their baseline performance and the research suggesting that style as the one that will be most effective for them!

Prior to reading or around the same time that I read the ESDM book in 2010, I created a decision tree for myself and supervisees because we were working with a lot of younger clients and I was finding it was difficult to explain to everyone why we were using different styles with different children. My decision tree has not been empirically evaluates (research challenge for anyone who wants it!) but it is fairly close to the one in the ESDM manual and aligns pretty well with an RTI model of increasing the intrusiveness of supports. I have included it below for anyone who would like to use it. Please share thoughts, questions, comments, and/or your own process for balancing intervention styles with this population.

The decision tree starts with general programs that I do with each early learner that I start working with and then shows how to proceed based on how the learner is responding to intervention. If the learner is making progress, the intervention maintains a more naturalistic teaching style but if the learner is not making progress, the intervention increases in structure and support.

Also, check out the ESDM manual for additional decision trees relating to choosing communication modality (vocal vs sign vs pecs) and use of a more structured approach

Those are the main resources I identified for sharing with you all this month! Please share your thoughts with us and let us know what we missed!


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