Universal Teacher-Child Interaction Training in Early Special Education: A Pilot Cluster-Randomized Control Trial

Bridget C. Davidson, Eileen Davis, Heleny Cadenas, Miya Barnett, B. Erika Luis Sanchez, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Jent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Using a pilot matched-pairs cluster-randomized control trial, we evaluated the acceptability and preliminary outcomes of universal Teacher-Child Interaction Training (TCIT-U) with students with disabilities in early special education programs. Twelve classrooms (clusters) were paired by age and type and then randomly assigned within pairs to either TCIT-U (81 students, 20 teachers) or wait-list control (63 students, 16 teachers) with services as usual. We analyzed the effects of TCIT-U on (a) teachers’ skills acquisition via masked observational coding and (b) students’ behavior and developmental functioning via teacher questionnaires. For child-directed interaction skills, teachers receiving TCIT-U exhibited significantly greater increases in behavior descriptions and labeled praise than teachers who did not receive TCIT-U at posttreatment and follow-up. No significant group differences were observed in use of teacher-directed interaction skills. Qualitative data from teachers expanded on these findings, suggesting that teachers found child-directed interaction skills more acceptable than teacher-directed interaction skills. Teachers receiving TCIT-U reported small but significant improvements in student behavior problems and socioemotional functioning at posttreatment and follow-up, as compared to wait-list students. We discuss considerations for future implementation and tailoring of TCIT for young students with disabilities, which may have positive impacts on future cohorts of students beyond teachers’ initial training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-393
Number of pages15
JournalBehavior Therapy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Teacher-Child Interaction Training
  • classroom behavior management
  • developmental disabilities
  • early special education
  • teacher training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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