Siblings as change agents. Results of the few studies using caregivers and typically developing siblings in the home setting have demonstrated that they can be effective as trainers and
change agents in improving the social interactions between children with autism and their siblings
(Strain & Danko, 1995; Strain, Kohler, Storey, & Danko, 1994). Such improvements have been
demonstrated in both school and home settings following an intervention that provided adult
prompting, edible reinforcement, and self-monitoring of social behaviors without adult reinforcement (Strain et al., 1994). Family members have trained typically developing siblings to persistently engage in social overtures toward their sibling with autism using a previously validated,
classroom-based social skills intervention package adapted for home use. This home-based intervention has resulted in increases in positive initiations and responses, as well as concurrent social
behaviors (Strain & Danko, 1995).
Typically developing siblings have been taught to promote play and play-related speech, to
praise play behaviors, and to prompt their siblings with autism to respond to initiations, with skills
being generalized and maintained after withdrawing intervention (Celiberti & Harris, 1993). Integrating the ritualistic behaviors of children with autism into games has increased joint attention
and social play interactions with siblings (Baker, 2000). Belchic and Harris (1994) focused on
teaching social interaction skills to target children with autism in order to improve their social play
skills with multiple peers and siblings in generalized settings including the home. Cooperative
play has been enhanced and prolonged by providing verbal and least-to-most intrusive physical
prompting to children with autism to encourage them to initiate play with confederate peers.
Generalization was evidenced by each child with autism initiating and maintaining interactions to
each new peer, a new playground, and with their sibling at home.