Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers)

About This Program

Target Population: Parents of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related social communication delays and the children themselves

For children/adolescents ages: 3 – 8

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 3 – 8

Program Overview

Project ImPACT (Improving Parents As Communication Teachers) is a parent-mediated intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related social communication delays. Parent-mediated means that a Project ImPACT coach teaches the parent techniques to be used with their child. The Project ImPACT coach uses systematic instruction to increase the parent's responsiveness to the child's behavior and teaches the parent how to use prompting and reinforcement to teach the child to use new communication, imitation, and play skills within child-led interactions. It is a naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention (NDBI). An NDBI is a newer class of intervention that has been informed by the fields of developmental and communication sciences and applied behavior analysis (ABA). Project ImPACT can be implemented in an individual or group coaching model and can be adapted for telehealth.

Program Goals

The goals of Project ImPACT (Improving Parents As Communication Teachers) are:

For parents:

  • Increase responsiveness to their child.
  • Increase use of prompting and reinforcement during daily routines with their child.
  • Increase feelings of empowerment and engagement in the treatment process.

For children:

  • Improve social communication skills
  • Improve social engagement
  • Improve communication (receptive and expressive language)
  • Improve imitation
  • Improve play skills

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers).

Essential Components

The essential components of Project ImPACT (Improving Parents As Communication Teachers) include:

  • Coach works with the parent to develop social communication goals using a defined collaborative goal setting process:
    • Parent- and provider-completed social communication skills checklist
    • Observation of a parent-child interaction
    • Observation of a coach-child interaction
  • The coach then teaches the parent one to two techniques per session which include:
    • Setting up the home for success
    • Following the child’s lead
    • Imitating the child
    • Adjusting their communication
    • Modeling and expanding communication
    • Playful obstruction
    • Balanced turns
    • Communicative temptations
    • Prompting and reinforcement – applied to teaching communication (expressive and receptive), imitation, and play
    • Shaping the interaction
  • The coach uses adult learning strategies to coach the parent which include:
    • Setting the agenda
    • Reviewing the practice plan
    • Introducing the technique
    • Demonstrating the technique
    • Giving parent feedback while they practice the technique
    • Reflecting on the experience
    • Setting up a plan to practice the technique

Program Delivery

Child/Adolescent Services

Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:

  • Diagnosed on the autism spectrum, possesses undeveloped communication skills, poor social engagement, poor imitation skills, poor play skills
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Although not required, the program can include other family members, including siblings who would also receive coaching.

Parent/Caregiver Services

Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Caring for a child on the autism spectrum, with undeveloped communication skills, and/or poor social skills; experiencing parental/caregiver stress

Recommended Intensity:

The program is designed to be implemented as an individual coaching model or a group coaching model. In the individual coaching model, the parent and child attend 60- to 90-minute coaching sessions twice a week though it can be adapted to once weekly. In the group coaching model, the parent attends either a 2-hour group session (parents only) or a 60-minute coaching session (parent and child) every other week.

Recommended Duration:

The intervention is 3 months for either group or individual sessions.

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Birth Family Home
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)


Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) includes a homework component:

The coach works with the parent to complete a practice plan at the end of every session which describes the child’s goal that the parent will target, an activity for practice, and the techniques that the parent will use. Parents are asked to practice and record what went well and what was hard on the practice plan.


Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) has materials available in languages other than English:

Chinese, Dutch, Korean, Spanish, Turkish

For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Coach and parent manuals. Age-appropriate play materials (if providing coaching outside the home or there is a lack of them in the home). For the group coaching model, a computer and projector to show slides and video examples.

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Coaches ideally have a Master’s level degree, but a Bachelor’s level degree plus significant experience and training is acceptable. Coaches can come a variety of disciplinary backgrounds as long as they have a background in child development and behavior management and experience with young children with social communication delays. These backgrounds can include employment as special educators, early intervention providers, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, and behavioral specialists (e.g., BCBA).

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

Ingersoll, B. & Dvortcsak, A. (2010). Teaching social-communication to children with autism: A practitioner’s guide to parent training and a manual for parents (2 book set). Guilford Press.

Ingersoll, B. & Dvortcsak, A. (2019). Teaching social communication to children with autism and other developmental delays: The Project ImPACT guide to coaching parents and the Project ImPACT manual for parents (2 book set; 2nd ed.). Guilford Press.

They can be purchased from the publisher or on Amazon.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contacts:
Training Type/Location:

Open workshops (in person and virtual) are offered periodically throughout the year. In-person workshops are usually offered in Portland, OR, and East Lansing, MI, USA. Closed workshops can be provided on-site or virtually to community organizations based on trainer availability.

Number of days/hours:

Online Tutorial: Providers complete a 6-hour, interactive online tutorial that introduces the intervention techniques and parent coaching strategies.

Introductory Training: Providers complete the 6-hour, interactive online tutorial followed by a 14-hour, multiday workshop. Workshops can be delivered over 2 full-days or 4 half-days; and may be delivered in person or virtually.

Certification. After completing Introductory Training, providers receive 6 months of consultation while using the program with families (individual OR group consultation option). Individual consultation: Provider attends 6, 1-hour consultation meetings with an ImPACT Trainer via phone or videoconferencing. Group consultation: Groups of 3 to 5 providers participate in 1-hour group consultation meetings twice a month to assist them in their implementation of Project ImPACT.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) as listed below:

Consultation is provided to individual providers or small groups of providers within the same organization to check and help them meet fidelity (see above under certification). Consultation with organizational leaders around implementation and scaling up the program across the organization is also provided. All consultation is provided via teleconferencing.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) as listed below:

Fidelity is assessed through trained observations based on video review of recorded sessions using a checklist. Fidelity measures for the intervention and coaching are available in the manual. More detailed scoring procedures are available upon request from the authors.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) as listed below:

The coach manual includes some details on implementation and an implementation planning form though it is not as detailed as a full implementation guide.

Implementation Cost

There are no studies of the costs of Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers).

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has been conducted on how to implement Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers) as listed below:

Ingersoll, B., & Dvortcsak, A (2006). Including parent training in the early childhood special education curriculum for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 8(2), 79–87.

Pickard, K. E., Kilgore, A., & Ingersoll, B. (2016). Using community partnerships to better understand the barriers to using an evidence-based, parent-mediated intervention for ASD in a Medicaid system. American Journal of Community Psychology, 57(3–4), 391–403.

Pickard, K. E., Wainer, A. L., Bailey, K., & Ingersoll, B. (2016). A mixed-method evaluation of the feasibility and acceptability of a telehealth-based parent-mediated intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 20(7), 845–855.

Wainer, A., Pickard, K. E., & Ingersoll, B. (2017). Using web-based instruction, brief workshops, and remote consultation to teach community-based providers a parent-mediated intervention. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26, 1592–1602.

Ingersoll, B., Straiton, D., Casagrande, K., & Pickard, K. (2018). Community providers’ intentions to use a parent-mediated intervention for children with ASD following training: An application of the theory of planned behavior. BMC Research Notes, 11, Article 777.

Pickard, K., Rowles, S., & Ingersoll, B. (2019). Understanding the impact of adaptations to a parent-mediated intervention on parents’ ratings of perceived barriers, program attributes, and intent to use. Autism, 23(2), 338–349.

Stahmer, A. C., Brookman-Frazee, L., Rieth, S. R., Stoner, J. T., Feder, J. D., Searcy, K., & Wang, T. (2017). Parent perceptions of an adapted evidence-based practice for toddlers with autism in a community setting. Autism, 21(2), 217–230.

Haine‐Schlagel, R., Rieth, S., Dickson, K. S., Brookman‐Frazee, L., & Stahmer, A. (2020). Adapting parent engagement strategies for an evidence‐based parent‐mediated intervention for young children at risk for autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Community Psychology, 48(4), 1215–1237.

Sengupta, K., Mahadik, S., & Kapoor, G. (2020). Glocalizing project ImPACT: Feasibility, acceptability and preliminary outcomes of a parent-mediated social communication intervention for autism adapted to the Indian context. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 76, Article 101585.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Ingersoll, B., & Wainer, A. (2013). Pilot study of a school-based parent training program for preschoolers with ASD. Autism, 17(4), 434–448.

Type of Study: One-group pretest–posttest study
Number of Participants: 24 students and their parents


  • Age — Children: Mean=44.9 months; Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: 20 White, 2 Hispanic, and 2 Bi/multi-racial; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 21 Male and 3 Female; Parents: 20 Female and 3 Male
  • Status — Participants were children receiving services under an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) eligibility or another eligibility if the teacher strongly suspected an ASD diagnosis.  

Location/Institution: Three intermediate school districts (ISDs) serving children with ASD

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to investigate the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a parenting training program (now called Project ImPACT). Thirteen teachers representing three intermediate school districts implemented the intervention with students and their parents. Measures utilized include the Social-Communication Checklist (SCC), the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), the ImPACT Fidelity Rating Scale, the Parenting Stress Index, 3rd Edition (PSI), the Behavioral Intervention Rating Scale (BIRS), and a parent-child interaction. Results indicate from preintervention to postintervention parents improved their use of the treatment strategies and children increased their rate of language during a parent-child interaction in their home. Parents and teachers reported significant gains in child mastery of social–communication skills and teachers, but not parents, reported a significant decrease in social impairment. Parents reported a significant decrease in parenting stress. Both groups rated the intervention highly in regards to treatment acceptability, perceived effectiveness, and usability. Limitations include lack of standardized measures of child functioning, lack of control group, lack of randomization, the children had an educational diagnosis of ASD, and several of the children were receiving services under another eligibility.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Stadnick, N. A., Stahmer, A., & Brookman-Frazee, L. (2015). Preliminary effectiveness of Project ImPACT: A parent-mediated intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder delivered in a community program. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(7), 2092–2104.

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 30 parent-child dads


  • Age — Children: 1.5–8 years, Mean=3.9–5.34 years; Parents: Mean=34.80–36.50 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: 47% Multiracial, 30% White, 10% Hispanic/Latino, 7% Asian, 3% African American, and 3% Other; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 79–81% Male; Parents: 97% Female
  • Status — Participants were children with a documented autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis or considered ‘‘at risk’’ for ASD.

Location/Institution: A community-based service center that routinely serves children with ASD and their families

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to compare child and parent outcomes between the intervention group (now called Project ImPACT) and a community comparison for young children with ASD at baseline and 12 weeks. Measures utilized include the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ), the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS), the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Second Edition (Vineland-II), the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D), the Parenting Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF), an evaluation report documenting ASD diagnosis, and video-taped parent intervention adherence. Results indicate significant improvement in child communication skills and a strong trend for parent intervention adherence for the Project ImPACT group from baseline to 12 weeks. Higher baseline parenting stress was negatively related to child social gains from baseline to 12 weeks. Limitations include lack of randomization, generalizability due to gender, small sample size, and a reliance mostly on parent-report.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Barber, A. B., Swineford, L., Cook, C., & Belew, A. (2020). Effects of Project ImPACT parent-mediated intervention on the spoken language of young children with autism spectrum disorder. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 5(3), 573–581.

Type of Study: One–group pretest–posttest study
Number of Participants: 22 children and their caregivers


  • Age — Children: 22–53 months (Mean=32.5 months); Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: 52% White, 45% Black, and 0.04% Hispanic; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 19 Male; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were children at risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or with diagnosed ASD.

Location/Institution: A university training clinic

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to measure spoken language and social communication in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) following their participation in Project ImPACT. Expressive vocabulary and social communication were measured pretreatment and posttreatment. Measures utilized include the Social Communication Checklist (SCC) and the Communicative Development Inventories (CDI) Gestures and Words Form. Results indicate expressive vocabulary significantly increased at the group level as measured by parent report. Expressive vocabulary for half of the sample grew by more than 25%, indicating good response to Project ImPACT. However, when a categorical approach was applied using total number of words, all but one of the participants who was minimally verbal pretreatment remained minimally verbal after treatment. Clinicians reported significant increases on all dimensions of social communication as measured by the SCC with the exception of imitation. Caregiver responses on the SCC suggested significant growth in only form of language and play functions. Greater change in spoken language between pretreatment and posttreatment was significantly related to higher posttreatment average scores of language form, language function, understanding, imitation, and play dimensions, as reported by caregivers. Limitations include lack of control group, lack of follow-up, cognitive measures were not collected, and the parents and clinicians who were actively involved in the intervention also completed the SCC preintervention and postintervention, which introduces possible instrument bias.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

No reference materials are currently available for Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers).

Contact Information

Brooke Ingersoll, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: Michigan State University
Phone: (517) 930-2275
Anna Dvortcsak, MS CCC-SLP
Agency/Affiliation: DSLSI
Phone: (503) 887-1130

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: July 2021

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2021