Graduation Date

Summer 8-17-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area

First Advisor

Kevin C. Luczynski


Young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often require systematic teaching to learn new skills, and caregivers can teach their children by embedding learning opportunities in a play-based context. However, researchers have not evaluated procedures to train caregivers to implement a combination of strategies designed to establish rapport and early language skills while maintaining play as a preferred context. We recruited two caregiver-child dyads composed of two mothers and their sons (3 and 4 years old). We used a multiple-probe design across strategies to demonstrate the efficacy of behavioral skills training on the mothers’ integration of parallel play, child-directed interaction, teaching requests (mands), and teaching labels (tacts). Both children acquired the target requests and labels as a function of their mothers’ teaching. By also assessing the children’s preference, we confirmed the teaching strategies did not decrease the children’s play or the value of playing with their mother. We obtained stimulus generalization and maintenance of the mothers’ implementation of the strategies from a clinic to their home. The outcomes serve as preliminary support for a caregiver-implemented intervention that composed of four embedded-teaching strategies while maintaining high levels of play and child preference for playing with their caregiver.


I want to thank my advisor, Kevin C. Luczynski, for his support in pursuing my research interests toward improving caregiver training for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. I would also like to thank my committee for their comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, and Sara A. Stodola and Ciobha A. McKeown for their assistance with collecting data for the study. Finally, I want to thank my friends and family for their support.