The Infant Toddler Autism Program (ITAP) has recently made its home in the Washington University Occupational Therapy Pediatric Services portfolio of clinical offerings. In addition to providing community education and student learning opportunities, ITAP offers a high-quality, parent-mediated, early intensive behavioral intervention service for infants and toddlers through the MC²: Motivation, Connection, Communication intervention. MC² was developed under the direction of Dr. Michael Gaffrey at the Washington University William Greenleaf Eliot Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Gaffrey is currently on faculty at Duke University.
ITAP’s MC² intervention is designed to increase the social engagement and functional communication skills of infants and toddlers (age 6-33 months) who exhibit early signs of autism, which may include any the following: frequently not responding to their name, not sharing interest by showing or pointing, delayed communication skills, limited eye contact, and appearing to pay more attention to objects than people. Social engagement is a critical component of communication and learning, and while caregivers often recognize their child is not meeting milestones as expected, they often report not knowing how to best support their child’s development.
For that reason, ITAP’s MC² is a parent-coaching program. A therapist works with the caregiver over the course of 24 sessions to teach the intervention and coach the parent on using the strategies fluidly with their child. The strategies are designed to be easily implemented within daily activities and routines, allowing the parent to realistically use them given time constraints while also giving the child access to higher levels of therapeutic dosage within their natural setting and schedules.
Sessions are typically scheduled for two 60-minute sessions/week for 12 weeks and occur in-person in the family’s home. During the Covid pandemic, accommodations were made to the intervention to allow for virtual sessions when needed. ITAP has partnered with Missouri First Steps and offers the program through the early intervention system when authorized by a family’s therapy team. Additionally, moving into the OT program has allowed ITAP to now offer a self-pay option for families who are not enrolled in First Steps.
To learn more about ITAP and the MC² intervention, or to make a referral, please visit itap.wustl.edu.