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JASP Development grant – Social Communication and Symbolic Play Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism – Funded by the National Center for Special Education Research; Institute for Education Sciences: R324B070056 Award Period: 07/01/2007-06/30/2011


Deficits in social-communicative functioning are core diagnostic features of autism. Joint attention and symbolic play are theoretically posited to be pivotal skills that constitute the early foundations for social-communicative development. Researchers have found that the quality and quantity of young children’s social communicative behaviors is highly predictive of long-term developmental and functional outcomes. Few school-based interventions have been developed and tested that target these two pivotal skills. To address this need, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill developed an intervention that targets joint attention and symbolic play in preschool-aged children with autism for use in public schools. The intervention program will has two primary content components (joint attention and symbolic play) and two primary context components (one-to-one intervention and classroom group activities). The purpose of this study was to develop and conduct an initial evaluation of this intervention.


  • Linda Watson, EdD (PI), Brian Boyd, PhD (Co-PI), Grace Baranek, PhD (Investigator), Betsy Crais, PhD (Investigator), Sam Odom (Investigator)
  • Other key contributors: Jessica Dykstra Steinbrenner, PhD; Sally Flagler, PhD; Michelle Flippin, PhD; Jessica Kinard, PhD; Heidi McGuinn Duncombe, EdS; Twyla Perryman, PhD; Tracy Williams Lenhardt, BS; Kaitlyn Wilson, PhD