Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Maureen Conroy


Early intervention is a critical component of efforts to optimize outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families. One promising target for early intervention is joint attention, an early developing social-cognitive competency that is foundational to many other social, communicative, and cognitive skills; and a core deficit in children with ASD. While joint attention interventions are gaining interest among researchers, many are limited by their failure to situate joint attention development within the caregiver-child relationship and to adequately examine child and caregiver outcomes and transactional processes. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in child and caregiver joint attention actions and transactions across the course of a parent-mediated joint attention intervention. The Child-Caregiver Joint Attention coding system was developed and applied to videotaped caregiver-child interaction sessions from all phases of the Joint Attention Mediated Learning intervention. Participants included five mothers and their toddler aged sons. Joint attention actions examined included gaze alternations, pointing, showing, joint attention responding, and joint attention initiating for both children and caregivers. Four of five children demonstrated increases in gaze alternations, joint attention responding, and joint attention initiating by the end of the intervention. Three caregivers demonstrated increases in gaze alternations and joint attention responding, and four displayed increases in joint attention initiating. There was no clear pattern of change across children or caregivers in pointing or showing. All participants, with the exception of one caregiver, responded to a higher percentage of opportunities for joint attention in the final intervention phase than in Baseline, suggesting that most participants became more responsive to their social partners by the end of the intervention. The findings of this study suggest that parent-mediated joint attention interventions have the potential to promote changes in both child and caregiver joint attention actions and transactional relationships. Future research should continue to examine outcomes for both children and primary caregivers and changes in child-caregiver transactions over the course of different types of joint attention interventions in order to inform intervention development and selection, and explore mechanisms for change.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011

Included in

Education Commons