Relationship-Based Developmental Intervention
Responsive Teaching (RT) is a developmental intervention curriculum that was designed for early intervention providers, including developmental specialists, special education and early childhood teachers, psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, as well as physical and occupational therapists, who work with parents and other caregivers to support and enhance their children's cognition, communication and social emotional functioning in their natural environment. The principals and procedures for this Relationship Based Intervention were derived from research investigating how parents’ interactive relationships are associated with the developmental growth and social-emotional well-being of children with developmental risks and disabilities. Responsive Teaching has been under development for more than 35 years through the support of several research and demonstration projects funded by the United States Department of Education. This evidence-based curriculum includes detailed instructional strategies, procedures, and session plans for addressing children's developmental needs across three domains: cognition, communication and social emotional functioning.
Responsive Teaching Resources
RT Curriculum Manual
RT Session Plans and Intervention Forms (FREE of CHARGE!!)
RT Planning and Tracking Program
Relationship-Based Developmental Intervention Manual
Responsive Teaching (RT) was first published under the title Autism and Developmental Delays in Young Children: The Responsive Teaching Curriculum for Parents and Professionals (Mahoney and MacDonald, 2007). A newly revised version of this curriculum called Responsive Teaching: Relationship Based Developmental Intervention was published in July, 2019 by Lulu Publishing. This version includes several new features that make it more user-friendly. It: (1) provides a more effective process for developing and implementing intervention session plans; (2) describes how Responsive Teaching is a "natural environment" intervention that conforms to the requirements for IEP/IFSP's; and (3) provides additional research evidence related to the effectiveness of RT at: (a) improving the quality of parents' interactions with their children; (b) promoting children's development; as well as (c) enhancing parents well-being by reducing the stress and depression that many experience while raising a young child with developmental disabilities or risks.
This manual can be purchased directly from Lulu Publishing in either a paperback edition ($20 USD plus shipping) or a e-book edition ($10 USD).
Session Plans and
As detailed in Responsive Teaching- Relationship Based Developmental Intervention: Volume 1, Responsive Teaching includes several tools and forms that are needed to implement this curriculum. These include the following:
Intervention Session Plans—4 levels of session plans for each of the 15 pivotal behaviors that RT recommends for addressing children's cognitive, communication and social emotional functioning.
Pivotal Behavior Wizard—Identifies appropriate intervention objectives based on a child’s current behavior in the target domain.
Pivotal Behavior Rating Scale —Assesses a child’s current level of using each of the 15 pivotal behaviors targeted by Responsive Teaching .
Session Tracking Form—Tracks intervention session plans across each of the three developmental domains addressed by RT that have been implemented with individual children and their parents as well the effectiveness of each session.
Family Action Plan Form—Parents and professionals use to develop a Family Action Plan
Intervention Session Guide—Assesses whether the activities identified for each phase of an intervention session occur during a particular session.
These intervention tools and forms have been compiled in Responsive Teaching Relationship-Based Developmental Intervention. Volume 2: Session Plans and Intervention Forms.
This can be obtained FREE OF CHARGE by clicking the button on the bottom of this page to download a PDF copy of Session Plans and Intervention Forms to your computer or tablet.
All materials in Volume 2 may be printed or photocopied for individual use. These materials are also available on the Responsive Teaching Planning and Tracking Program, which provides a more time-efficient and convenient method for printing and using these forms.
Planning and Tracking Program
The Responsive Teaching Planning and Tracking Program (RTPTP) is a web-based subscription program that enables professionals to plan, print, and track individualized Responsive Teaching session plans in less than 3 minutes. Each subscriber to the RTPTP is assigned a pass-code protected, confidential user file in which they enter Identification Codes and optional demographic information for each of the parent-child clients on their caseload.
After individual client files have been created, professionals can use the RTPTP to generate RT session plans that are tailored to children’s individualized developmental needs as well as to parents’ progress at learning to use Responsive Interaction Strategies. Using a series of drop-down menus, providers simply identify: (1) the Intervention Goal (e.g. Cognition, Communication, Social Emotional) that is associated with the child’s developmental needs; (2) the specific Pivotal Behavior Intervention Objective that is being targeted to address the child’s developmental needs; as well as (3) the Level (i.e., Level I to Level IV) of Session Plan that would be appropriate to parents’ experience or success using Responsive Interaction Strategies previously recommended.
This information is used to generate 3 to 4-page session plans that list the Intervention Objective that is the focus of the session, two to four Discussion Points that outline conversations professionals can have with parents about how their child’s intervention objective relates to their concerns about their child’s development, as well as detailed descriptions of the Responsive Interaction Strategies that professionals will help parents learn to use to address their child’s intervention objective . Level I and Level IV session plans also include Pivotal Behavior Rating Scales that can be used by parents and professionals to assess children’s progress at acquiring their intervention objectives. The RTPTP can then generate PDF session plans for both professionals and parents, that can be downloaded and printed from professionals’ computers or tablets.
The tracking component of the RTPTP can be used to generate reports of the session plans that have been implemented with each client, the date and time that intervention sessions took place, as well as professional notes that are relevant to each session. In addition to Session Plan Reports, the RTPTP can also generate two other reports. These include a client list (Names and Contact information of Clients on their active caseloads) and Intervention Service Logs (e.g. reports of the number of intervention sessions scheduled and implemented as well as the amount of time spent with each client during a previous period of time (month, year, etc.).
Training and Certification
Responsive Teaching International is currently offering on-site training on the RT curriculum. Currently there are 2 options for training.
Option 1: “Introduction to Responsive Teaching” provides an overview of this curriculum. This can occur in either half day (3 hours) or full day (6 hours) formats.
Option 2: “Getting Started with Responsive Teaching” is a 3 or 4-day workshop in which practitioners are provided detailed explanations of the theoretical rationale and intervention procedures for Responsive Teaching. This workshop includes practical training exercises that are designed to help professionals develop the skills that are needed to begin implementing this curriculum.
The Responsive Teaching Professional Certification Program is available to all professionals who complete the Getting Started with Responsive Teaching Workshop.
Professionals must conduct a 6-month case study with one family and child with whom they are using RT. At the end of each month, professionals must submit a report on their case study. In addition, at the end of the 2nd, 4th, and 6th months professionals must submit a video recording of their providing RT to this parent and child.
Contact Dr. Gerald Mahoney for more information about RT Training and Certification.
Evidence Base for Responsive Teaching
Research Origins of
The story of Responsive Teaching began nearly 40 years ago when we initiated a series of research investigations to understand how the quality of parents' interactions were associated with the rate of development attained by their infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children who had disabilities or other developmental challenges. Although these were descriptive investigations and were not designed to identify causal influences, results from our studies suggested that the way that parents’ interactions nurtured and enhanced their children's development was quite different from the types of interventions and recommendations that many early interventionists and therapists had been using.
That is, early intervention had been focused on encouraging parents to teach age-appropriate developmental or functional skills that their children did not yet know but were expected to use at their current chronological age. However, our investigations indicated that at 12, 24 and 36 months of age, the children with the highest levels of cognitive (Mahoney, Finger & Powell, 1985) and communication functioning (Mahoney, 1988 a, Mahoney, 1988 b) tended to engage in interactive episodes in which their parents did little direct teaching. Seldom did parents request their children to engage in certain types of play behavior or produce words or other communicative behaviors their children did not yet know. They generally tended to refrain from pressuring their children to say or perform behaviors that exceeded their current level of developmental functioning.
Rather, as illustrated in the video below, their parents emphasized a set of responsive interactive qualities that included the following:
Respond contingently and encourage most of the behaviors their children initiate;
Engage in balanced reciprocal interactive exchanges with their children;
Engage in non-directive interactions in which they encourage their children to control the topic or focus of interaction, at least, as often as they did;
Display high levels of positive affect and enjoyment; and
Model, or show, developmental behaviors that match their children's current interests, level of development, and behavioral style without pressuring children to imitate or perform these behaviors.
In 1984 we began a program of research to determine whether a Relationship Based Intervention that encouraged parents to adopt a highly responsive, reciprocal and affective style of interacting with their children might be effective at addressing their children's developmental concerns. In the course of this work we began to develop a curriculum that focused on promoting highly responsive parent-child relationships that was first called the Transactional Intervention Program (TRIP) (Mahoney & Powell, 1986), and was later renamed as Responsive Teaching (RT) (Mahoney & MacDonald, 2007).
We conducted eight evaluations of this curriculum with more than 200 parent-child dyads in which the children were between 5 months to 6 years of age and had a range of developmental disabilities and challenges, including autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, communication delays, undiagnosed developmental delays, as well as children who were adopted (Note: See numbered RT Efficacy studies listed below).
In general, there were three major findings from these investigations.
First, as depicted on Figure 1 listed below, Responsive Teaching was effective at helping parents modify their interactions with their children. All eight evaluations reported significant changes in parents’ style of interaction as indicated by increases in responsiveness, seven reported increases in positive affect (2-8), and three reported decreases in directiveness (1,4,5).
Second, as depicted on Figure 2 listed below, all Responsive Teaching evaluations reported significant improvements in children's development. All eight evaluations found significant improvements in children's cognitive functioning, six reported improvements in children's communication (3,4,5,6,7,8), five reported improvements in children's social competence as indicated by increases in their ability to interact with their parents and others (2,3,4,5,7), and four reported improvements in children's social emotional functioning (2,3,6,7).
Third, the developmental improvements children made while participating in Responsive Teaching were associated with the degree to which their parents increased their responsiveness (2,3,4,5). These findings added to the increasing evidence that parental responsive interaction plays a major role in promoting and supporting the developmental functioning of young children with developmental disabilities and risks.
RT Effects on Parents' Interactive Style
Figure 1. Average Intervention Changes in Parent Style of Interaction Across 7 Studies
RT Effects on Children's Development
Figure 2. Average Child Development Improvements Across Multiple Studies
RT Efficacy Studies
Click Link to Down Load Publications
Mahoney, G. & Powell, A. (1988). Modifying parent-child interaction: Enhancing the development of handicapped children. Journal of Special Education. 22, 82-96.
Mahoney, G. & Perales, F. (2003). Using relationship-focused intervention to enhance the social-emotional functioning of young children with autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 23 (2), 77-89.
Mahoney, G & Perales, F. (2005). A comparison of the impact of relationship-focused intervention on young children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders and other disabilities. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 26(2), 77-85.
Karaaslan, O. Diken, I., & Mahoney, G. (2013). A randomized control study of Responsive Teaching with young Turkish Children and their mothers. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 33, 18-27.
Karaaslan, O. & Mahoney, G. (2013). Effectiveness of Responsive Teaching with children with Down syndrome. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 51, 458-469
Mahoney, G., Nam, S. & Perales, F. (2014). Pilot study of the effects of Responsive Teaching on young adopted children and their parents: A comparison of two levels of treatment intensity. Today Children Tomorrow Parents, 37-38, 67-84.
Mahoney, G., Wiggers, B., Nam, S. & Perales, F. (2014). How depressive symptomatology of mothers of children with pervasive developmental disorders relates to their participation in relationship focused intervention. International Journal of Early Childhood Special Education, 6, 204-221.
Alquraini, T, Al-Adaib, A., Al-Dhalaan, H., Merza, H., & Mahoney, G. (2018). Feasibility of Responsive Teaching with mothers and young children with autism in Saudi Arabia. Journal of Early Intervention, 40, 304-316.
Effects on Parental Stress
One of the major considerations related to parent implemented interventions is how they are associated with parental stress or depression. These two psychosocial conditions tend to be problematic among parents of young children with disabilities, especially parents of children with severe disabilities such as autism. The first question is “Do high levels of parenting stress and depression interfere with parents' participation in these interventions?” The second question is “How does parent participation in these intervention affect their stress or depression?”
Two studies have been published which have addressed these issues in Responsive Teaching (Alquraini & Mahoney, 2015; Alquraini, et al., 2018). In both studies, parents with clinical levels of parenting stress or depression attained equal or even greater improvements in responsiveness with their children as did parents with non-clinical levels of stress or depression. Furthermore there were no differences between the developmental improvements made by children of these two groups of parents.
In addition, both studies reported significant improvements in parents' psychosocial functioning. As depicted in Figure 3, Alquraini & Mahoney (2015) reported that after one year of RT intervention there was a 41% reduction in the number of parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who reported clinical levels of parenting stress.
Similar findings were reported in the second study (Alquraini, et. al., 2018) which was was a six-month evaluation of Responsive Teaching conducted in Saudi Arabia with mothers of children with autism. Clinical levels of parenting stress declined from 100% to 31% for mothers who participated in RT. This contrasted with Control group mothers who showed no improvements in parenting stress (See Figure 4).
Furthermore, as depicted in Figure 5, Alquraini and colleagues also reported that the rate of clinical depression for RT mothers declined from 77% to 15%.
Figure 3. RT Effects on Parenting Stress (Alquraini & Mahoney, 2015)
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Figure 4. RT Effects on Parenting Stress (Alquraini, et. al. 2018)
Responsive Teaching In
Figure 5. RT Effects on Parent Depression (Alquraini, et. al., 2018)
Responsive Teaching International Affiliates
Responsive Teaching In Turkey
Under the direction of Dr. Ibrahim H. Diken, director of the Research Institute for Individuals with Disabilities at Anadolu University, several doctoral dissertations and studies (please visit www.etecom.org to download these studies) have been carried out in Turkey. Dr. Diken and his colleagues have played a leading role in research, policy, and personnel training related to Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education. One of the main emphases of this effort has been on Responsive Teaching. This has included:
A Turkish translation of the Responsive Teaching curriculum, which is available for purchase,
Workshops for parents and professionals on the implementation of the RT curriculum;
Individual and group Responsive Teaching intervention sessions conducted by Institute staff and students for parents and their young children with autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities; as well as
Four publications in peer-reviewed journals which support the efficacy of Responsive Teaching with Turkish parents and their young children;
Toper, O., Diken, I.H., Vuran, S. & Mahoney, G. (2019). The effects of home-based Responsive Teaching Curriculum on interactional behaviors of mothers and their children with autism spectrum disorder: A mixed design study in Turkey.
Responsive Teaching in
The Korean RT Center is a research and training center headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. This center is focused on promoting the development and well-being of infants and young children based upon the Relationship Based principles and strategies outlined in the Responsive Teaching Curriculum. Under the direction of Dr. Kim Jeong Mee this center hosts the Korea RT Association. It has also published translations of the RT Curriculum and assessment tools as well as books for parents and early childhood teachers and caregivers.
This center sponsors conferences, workshops and RT certification training for Korean Early Childhood professionals which have been sanctioned by Responsive Teaching International.