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Child Therapist Post: Project ImPACT Helps Young Children with Autism

Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) is a parent training program for young children with autism

Project ImPACT teaches caregivers of children with autism strategies. These strategies increase their children’s use of communication and social skills during playtime and daily routines such as meals and bathing.

Iowa City Psychology

Why Teach Families?

Project ImPACT works by teaching the families of children with autism skills to promote speech and social skills.

Caregivers make great communication teachers because:

  • They often have more opportunities to work with their children than school professionals or speech therapists,
  • Know best how to work with their child,
  • Are very invested in their child’s success,
  • And really enjoy their time with their children. When parents and children enjoy each other, it promotes learning.

Iowa City PsychologyProject ImPACT teaches caregivers skills to use in daily routines and activities

Research shows that when communication skills are taught in a natural environment such at home while playing with a parent, children are better able to learn the skill and use it later in an appropriate way.

It is recommended that young children with autism receive at least 25 hours of instruction per week, 12 months a year, in the areas of speech and social skills (National Resource Center, 2001). Parents have more opportunities to teach their children than school teachers and therapists.

Is Project ImPACT Right For Your Child?

Project ImPACT is designed for young children, ages approximately 1-6 years old. This program is most effective with children who are not yet talking in sentences.

How Does Project ImPACT Work?

The family of a young child with autism meets with an ImPACT provider to establish individualized goals for the child

Goals are set in the areas of social engagement, language, social imitation, and play. Social engagement goals might include playing with others or increasing eye contact. A social imitation goal may be waving goodbye. Language goals often include use of a point or single words to show what the child wants. More advanced language goals might include asking for help or answering a question. A play goal might be using toys in a typical way such as pushing a car around and saying beep, beep.

Iowa City Psychology

Parents then meet with a therapist weekly for sessions

Each session involves teaching the family a new skills to use with their child to work towards their goals. The provider demonstrates using the skill with the child and coaches the family as they use the skill with their child. The provider and family discuss how the family might be able to practice the skill with their child during the week. Skills are taught using toys and materials that are really interesting to the child to increase involvement in therapy.

Jennifer Luria provides Project ImPACT services at Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants

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