Case Study

Early treatment for an infant at risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Exciting results with the 12- week parent- training program based on the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

  • Recent advances in early identification of autism symptoms have allowed for intervention with infants as young as 6 months old
  • Using the Infant and Toddler Checklist and the Mullen’s Scale of Early Learning an infant was determined to be at-risk for the development of autism spectrum disorder
  • This study evaluated the change in developmental trajectory using a 12- week parent- training program based on the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
  • A collaborative parent coaching method following the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) was used
  • The clinician met with the mother and child on for 1.5 hours/week for 4 months
  • Parents implemented objectives a minimum 30hrs per week
  • Coaching sessions were done via Skype sessions and in office
  • Skype session: The mother and child were in their own home, the child was either in a high-chair with the mother seated beside, or they were in the living room surrounded by a typical toddler toys, clinician was in a home office.  
  • In office sessions:  The mother and child came to the clinician’s office.  A corner of the office was set up with a mat on the floor and a variety of toddler toys, including blocks, cars, toy animals, puzzles, balloons, bubbles, balls, and cause and effect toys.  The mother, child, and clinician sat together on the mat
  • Individualized objectives were determined using the ESDM Curriculum Checklist for Young Children with Autism
  • Targets comprised of a combination of early social skills, fine motor skills, cognition, imitation, and communication
  • Parents were purchased the book ‘An Early Start for Your Child with Autism’
  • Using the book as a reference, parents and were trained on techniques to increase joint attention and how to implement goals naturalistically in the home environment.

  • The Infant Toddler Checklist revealed a total score in the 4th percentile at 6 months with an increase to the 73rd percentile at the 12- month follow up  
  • Significant improvements were shown in the social composite with a score in the 5th percentile at 6 months with an increase to the 75th percentile at the 12- month follow-up
  • The results of the Mullen Scales of Early Learning showed gains in all areas of development with the exception of gross motor skills


  • The results of the study support early autism screening for infants and a parent-training model for intervention using principles of applied behavior analysis
  • This study highlights the importance of early screenings for symptoms of ASD so that treatment can begin as early as possible



Charlene Gervais, M.ADS, BCBA, Kim Moore, M.ADS, BCBA, Amy C. O’Neill, MSc. , Rachael Riethman, Vanessa Schell MSc

Queen’s University, The Portia Learning Centre



The information in this case study is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide any type of professional advice. Portia does not guaranty the accuracy or reliability of any information contained in this case study from third party sources. You should consult a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or other qualified professional for specific advice. Portia International assumes no responsibility for any reliance made on or misuse or omissions of the information contained in this blog.

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