Date of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Psychology, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Marjorie H. Charlop

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kendall Cotton Bronk

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Tiffany Berry

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mandy Rispoli

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Alanna Dantona


autism spectrum disorder, heritage language, language, naturalistic, play, siblings

Subject Categories



Research on sibling-mediated interventions (SMIs) suggests that neurotypical siblings may help bolster language and play development in autistic children (Akers et al., 2018; Celiberti & Harris, 1993; Coe et al., 1991; Glugatch & Machalicek, 2021; Oppenheim-Leaf et al., 2012; Spector & Charlop, 2018), though consideration of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations is lacking. CALD autistic children often have a heritage language, or home language, other than English that is spoken at home with family members. Evidence suggests that bilingual exposure may be advantageous for language and play of autistic children (Dalmau et al., 2011; Lim & Charlop Seung et al., 2006; Vaughn, 2013). However, studies have not yet explored the role of neurotypical siblings in delivery of heritage language during intervention. The present study examined the effects of a naturalistic intervention mediated by siblings (NIMS) across four sibling dyads. Neurotypical siblings first received training through direct instruction, modeling, and role-play with a bilingual therapist. During intervention, visual prompts were used to encourage neurotypical siblings to deliver instructions, appropriate play phrases, and questions in heritage language during play with the autistic children. Results indicated that appropriate verbalizations of autistic children, social initiations of neurotypical siblings, and interactive play of the sibling dyad increased due to the intervention. Ancillary measures revealed that all dyads reported happiness during the intervention and two dyads improved the quality of the sibling relationship. The implications of the study suggest researchers and practitioners alike should continue to explore neurotypical siblings as change agents for autistic children, particularly when delivering intervention in heritage language.



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