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Examining variability in Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Intervention strategy use in caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorders.

BACKGROUND: Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBIs) for young children with autism spectrum disorder commonly involve caregiver-mediated approaches. However, to date, there is limited research on how caregivers' skills change, and, in turn, impact child outcomes.

METHODS: We evaluated the NDBI strategy use of 191 caregivers prior to participation in NDBIs (or control groups) across multiple randomized controlled trials, using the Measure of NDBI Strategy Implementation, Caregiver Change (MONSI-CC). Clustering analyses were used to examine caregiver variability in NDBI strategy use at intervention entry. Generalized Linear Mixed Models were used to examine changes in caregiver strategy use over the course of intervention and its impact on changes in children's social communication.

RESULTS: Using clustering analysis, we found that caregivers' baseline skills fit four profiles: limited, emerging, variable, and consistent/high, with few demographic factors distinguishing these groups. Caregivers starting with limited or emerging skills improved in their strategy use with intervention. Caregivers starting with more skills (consistent/high or variable) maintained higher skills over intervention. Children of caregivers in these groups who received target NDBIs improved in their social communication skills.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggested that caregiver skills improve through participation in NDBIs and may directly contribute to their children's outcomes, although more research on mediating factors is needed. Individualized approaches for caregivers and their children starting with differing skill profiles at intervention entry may be warranted.

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