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5723 Early Intervention Colorado Autism Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers [ASHA Session]

Thursday, July 7, 2011: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
Sun 3-4 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
This session will provide an overview of the Early Intervention Colorado Autism Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers. The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that infants and toddlers, birth through two years, who have characteristics of autism spectrum disorders receive services based on: 1) evidenced-based practices, 2) published research, and 3) early childhood clinical judgment that meets their individualized identified needs, and not a specific diagnosis, and offers a prescriptive curriculum or treatment model.          In July 2009, the Colorado Department of Human Services, Division for Developmental Disabilities, with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, began collaborating with the University of Colorado, School of Education and Human Development to develop the Early Intervention Colorado Autism Guidelines.  The purpose of these Guidelines is to ensure that infants and toddlers birth through two years who have characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) receive services based on their individualized identified need, and not on a specific diagnosis, prescriptive curriculum or treatment model.

       The Guidelines document is also intended to assist local early intervention programs to provide early intervention services that are based on evidenced-based practices, published research and early childhood clinical judgment that will increase the awareness and knowledge levels of families, providers, and early intervention administrators. 

         The content of the Guidelines is compiled from a review of research-based programs and models, as well as state-of-the-art information from experts in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders, and work with family members who have young children with ASD.  The Guidelines approach early intervention service decisions consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) that mandates that appropriate services be based on scientifically based research, are available statewide to all infants and toddlers, and meet the individualized needs of the eligible child and family.

            The Guidelines offer a general orientation to the design and delivery of high quality services to infants and toddlers with ASD who are receiving early intervention services in Colorado. The document is divided into three major sections each of which will be covered in this presentation. First, the readers/session attendees will find a set of twelve Guiding Principles that outline Colorado’s general guidance around the development, implementation and monitoring of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with ASD.

            The next major section provides more detailed information and guidance around key practice issues for all providers and recipients of early intervention services including:

  • Strategies For Designing Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs)
  • A Tiered Model For Thinking About Specific Needed Early Intervention Services
  • Implications for Implementation

             The final section provides detailed information on evidence-based interventions for individuals with ASD and the nine recommended strategies in the Guidelines as well as case studies and strategies for monitoring progress and making data-based decisions regarding programming. 

            The Guidelines are organized in these different sections to address the various target audiences of this document. While anyone who has an interest in the provision of or receipt of early intervention services for infants and toddlers with ASD will benefit from reading the entire document, the Guiding Principles portion is essential reading for all – administrators, policy makers, providers, families, and advocates. The twelve Guiding Principles will be introduced in this presentation and are listed below.

1.         Services must be individualized for each child and family.

2.         Family involvement and participation is critical.

3.         Early delivery of intervention must be encouraged.

4.         Families have a right to evidence-based practices.

5.         Intervention is based on an individualized developmental curriculum designed to address the specialized needs of the infant or toddler with ASD.

6.         Intervention is planned and systematic.

7.         Infants and toddlers with ASD should have regular and deliberate exposure to typically developing peers.

8.         Challenging behaviors are addressed using positive behavioral supports.

9.         Intervention should focus on developing communication skills

10.       The development of social relationships is integral to successful outcomes.

11.       Getting to quality outcomes is not just about hours of direct services.

12.       The transition from the early intervention system to preschool special education and related services should be well planned.

            Other sections of the Guidelines may be of more or less utility to various readers. Early intervention providers working with infants and toddlers with ASD and their families should be familiar with and directly incorporate into their practice the strategies suggested in the Designing Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) section. Similarly, teams of providers and program administrators may find the Tiered Model for Thinking About Specific Needed Services section to be useful in the overall design of systems and the allocation of resources.

            Finally, we recognize that families and providers are keenly concerned about the use of specific practices with the best chance of producing desired outcomes. These readers may well find particularly valuable information in the Evidence-Based Practices and Measuring Outcomes section.  Our Guiding Principle that children and families should be provided with evidence-based practices has led directly to the following set of recommendations based upon the National Autism Center’s National Standards Project (NSP) (2009). This final section of the Guidelines provides detailed information on the nine recommended strategies for infants and toddlers (listed below) adapted from the NSP. In this presentation we will present information on the selection of these practices and provide a brief overview of each practice with video clips of these practices being utilized in home and community settings.  The nine recommended strategies in the Guidelines are:

  1. Antecedent Package
  2. Behavior Package (Discrete Trial Training and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support)
  3. Joint Attention
  4. Modeling
  5. Naturalistic Teaching Strategies
  6. Peer Training Package
  7. Pivotal Response Treatments
  8. Schedules (Use of Visuals)
  9. Augmentative and Alternative Communication

             Finally, we will briefly present the process we have undertaken to roll out these guidelines to early intervention community center boards and providers across the state of Colorado.

Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will be able to identify the key components of Colorado's Autism Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers.
  • Attendees will be introduced to the guidelines tiered model for thinking about specific early intervention services.
  • Attendees will have an understanding of the nine recommended strategies and how these strategies were selected from the pool of evidence-based interventions.

Content Area: Early Intervention


Phillip S. Strain, Ph.D.
Professor of Educational Psychology
University of Colorado, Denver

Phil Strain, Ph.D., is a Professor of Educational Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Denver. Dr. Strain has worked in the field of early intervention since 1974 and was the initial developer and Project Director of the LEAP Preschool Model and LEAP’s subsequent demonstration and outreach efforts.

Edward H. Bovey II, M.A.
Assistant Director, PELE Center
University of Colorado, Denver

Ted has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from CU-Denver. He has worked with young children with autism and other developmental disabilities for over 15 years. Ted works on several state and federal projects training early childhood professionals in the use of evidence-based practices for young children with ASD.