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The Early Development Project (EDP)

  *This project is now in the analysis phase and is not currently recruiting participants*

Principal Investigators:

Linda Watson, Ed.D., Associate Professor, Division of Speech and Hearing

Elizabeth Crais, Ph.D., Professor, Division of Speech and Hearing


Co-Principal Investigators:

Grace Baranek, Ph.D., Professor, Division of Occupational Science

Steve Reznick, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology

Lauren Turner Brown, Ph.D., Adjunct Assistant Professor, UNC TEACCH


The Early Development Project-2, is a four-year, federally-funded ($2.4 million) grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.  It expands the work completed in the Early Development Project-1, funded by Autism Speaks that served as a pilot for EDP-2.  Both projects addressed the issues of early identification and early intervention through two primary aims:

  1. To screen 12-month-old infants in central North Carolina to identify those that may be at high risk for an eventual diagnosis of autism or other developmental disabilities, and
  2. To compare effects of a 6-month parent-mediated, relationship-focused intervention to a community services-referral condition, using a randomized controlled study.


  • We enrolled 87 families in EDP-2
  • The initial screening was accomplished at 12 months of age using the First Year Inventory (FYI), a parent report measure
  • Families were identified based on publicly available birth records
  • Parents of infants with elevated risk scores in both social-communication and sensory regulation were then invited to participate with their child in a comprehensive developmental assessment.
  • Following this assessment, parents received a written report of the results and are invited to participate in a 6-month early intervention treatment study.
  • All participating families are referred to standard community-based services.  In addition, half of the families are randomly assigned to participated in the Adapted Responsive Teaching (ART) intervention.
  • Families were assessed again after the intervention when children were about 22 months of age.
  • Follow-up assessments were conducted in 2015 when children were 3-5 years old.

About the FYI screening: The FYI is designed to identify risk factors in two important domains of development:  Social Communication and Sensory-Regulatory functions.

About the intervention: ART is a home-based, parent-mediated intervention that is based on a relationship-focused approach.  It was adapted from the Responsive Teaching approach originally developed by Mahoney and MacDonald (2004).  In the ART intervention, skilled therapists assist parents in recognizing pivotal milestones and processes in their infant, and then coach parents on responsive techniques to promote optimal development.  Desired outcomes of ART include changes in cognitive abilities, social-communication, sensory-regulatory functions, and adaptive behavior.