This section of the Early Achievements website helps parents understand more about Early Achievements and the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s programs and resources for infants, children, and youth with social and communication delays and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Children with communication and/or social delays and ASD learn best at school when instruction has certain characteristics that are strategically designed to maximize children’s attention to, and motivation to participate in instructional activities. Those instructional characteristics include things like creating learning opportunities that ensure plenty of child success but also present just the right amount of challenge to promote new skill and knowledge attainment. This is accomplished by giving children opportunities to practice existing skills in familiar and new situations. Teachers must create learning experiences that target children’s emerging skills. Also, teachers must provide the right type of cues and supports to help children do their best. Such cue let children know when they are on target, so they can 'get it right' the next time around. When teachers acknowledge children's attempts to participate and initiate, and reward (reinforce) their correct responses, children are more motivated to keep trying. Teachers also can boost child achievement by making educational experiences meaningful. In addition, teachers must ensure that children have many opportunities throughout the school day to initiate and respond in situations that target their learning goals. The Early Achievements intervention helps teachers to provide instruction that consistently has all these characteristics, and more. As a result, teachers using the Early Achievements instructional strategies help their students gain new knowledge and skills, which is associated with improved student engagement in instruction and increased positive behaviors.

Most existing preschool curricula fail to adequately address the learning needs of children with social and communication delays and ASD. The Early Achievements intervention is an evidence-based approach to targeting child knowledge and skills that are lacking in those curricula. Early Achievements is specially designed to supplement schools’ existing curricula for preschool-aged children, emphasizing development of knowledge and skills falling in the language, communication, and social domains. Teachers learn how to use the Early Achievements instructional strategies by attending specially designed workshops, and being coached in their classroom by an Early Achievements coach. Coaches support teachers as they learn to adapt their instruction to meet the different needs of the students in their classroom, and as they deliver instruction in group contexts so that children learn from each other, develop new social skills, and build friendships.

As teachers develop expertise in using the Early Achievements instructional strategies, they learn to communicate more effectively with parents about what and how children are learning. This fosters parent-teacher relationships and shared expectations for children’s learning and behavior at school and at home. Through the Early Achievements professional development program, teachers become powerful agents of student change.