Developmental interventions focus on the child's
ability to form positive, meaningful relationships with other people.
The Developmental Social-Pragmatic model (DSP) focuses on initiation
and spontaneity in communication, following the child's focus of
attention and motivations; building on the child's current communicative
repertoire, even if this is unconventional; and using more natural
activities and events as contexts to support the development of
the child's communicative abilities. It has been drawing increased
attention as an intervention for Autism,
syndrome and other developmental disorders.
The DSP approach is characterized by the following
The parent or therapist allows the child to initiate
interactions as they are based on the child's interests. The environment
is also organized in a way to encourage interactions. This can be
• Obstruction (briefly interrupting an activity
in a playful way)
• Sabotage ( e.g. leaving out a required item
needed for an activity)
• Disrupting routines (changing the way a child
normally does things)
• Inaccessible items (the child will need the
parents help to access an out-of-reach item).
Children on the autism spectrum typically have trouble picking up the emotional states
of others so emotions are exaggerated by the adult. These are often
accompanied by verbal reinforcement ie. "See how happy I am!"
Other strategies in the Developmental Social-Pragmatic
• Focus on spontaneous social communication within a flexible structure
and varied activities
• Using a range of methods such as speech, song and gestures as
• Intervention is child-focused in terms of control, turn taking,
• Meaningful activities or events are chosen for their interest
and motivation to the child
• A variety of social groupings used to build skills for complex
• Supports such as visual and gesture cues help the child make sense
of activities and interactions
• Emotional expression and affect sharing are seen as central to
the interactive and learning process.
DSP put emphasis on developing communication skills
within the context of developing relationships and socio-emotional
growth, whereas the role of emotions in motivation and learning
is minimized in behavioral interventions.
what does the research say?
Parents using developmental or 'naturalistic'
techniques were happier, less stressed and felt they communicated
better with their child than parents trained in discrete
trial training (Koegel et al., 1996). Research indicates that
DSP can lay some claim to being an evidence-based
treatment. A review of the literature on DSP found that it appeared
to be more effective than discrete
trial training (Delprato 2001). DSP can improve adult-child
interactions (Mahoney & Perales 2003) but it should be noted
little of the research on DSP has been rigorous in nature to date.
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