The Real-World Effectiveness of Early Teaching Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Reed, P., Osborne, L. A., & Corness, M (2007a). The real-world effectiveness of early teaching interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder. Exceptional Children, 73, 417-433.
Reviewed by: Kathleen Moran, MA
Why research this topic?
Although many educational programs have been developed for children with autism, few studies have compared the effects of different programs. This study examined outcomes for children with autism in three community-based programs in the United Kingdom: a special nursery program, portage (home visits to conduct play sessions with the child and provide training to parents), and applied behavior analysis (ABA).
What did the researcher do?
Fifty-three children with autism between the age of 2 and 4 years old entered one of the three programs, depending on what was available in their area. Children receiving ABA treatment received about 30 hours a week under trained supervisors who were Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA). Sessions were 2-3 hours in length and took place in the home using one-to-one teaching. In the special nursery program, children attended a class of six to eight children taught by specialist in special education. Most teaching was done in small groups and the average amount of treatment hours a week was 13. Portage was a low intensity program that involved teaching sessions with the child in the home for 40-60 minutes per day and parent training sessions weekly or every other week.
What did the researcher find?
After eight months of service, students who received ABA had significantly larger gains in educational achievement than students in the other two groups and significantly outperformed the portage group (though not the special nursery group) on measures of intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. Students in the portage group did not show gains on any measure and had the least favorable outcomes overall.
What are the limitations and strengths of the study? What do the results mean?
This study showed that ABA was particularly effective for teaching educational skills and that both ABA and special nursery classes had a greater impact on intellectual and adaptive functioning than portage. The biggest limitation is that groups were not randomly assigned. The study also did not focus on how well the interventions were delivered or what aspects of the programs were responsible for the children’s improvement. Overall, however, the study provides important information about the comparative effects of different educational programs.