Young children with autism benefit regardless of high-quality treatment model

July 16, 2013

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who receive high-quality early intervention benefit developmentally regardless of the treatment model used—a surprising result that may have important implications for special-education programs and school classrooms across the country.

"This is the first study designed to compare long-standing comprehensive treatment models for with ASD," said Brian Boyd, a fellow at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and one of the study's co-. Boyd also is an assistant professor in occupational science and occupational therapy in UNC's School of Medicine.

"We know that more children are being diagnosed with ASD each year, and that it can cost an estimated $3.2 million to treat each child over a lifetime. Understanding that a child can benefit from a high-quality program, rather than a specialized program, may help reduce those costs by decreasing the need for teachers and other school practitioners to be trained to deliver multiple specialized services," Boyd said. He stressed it remains important to ensure educators are trained to provide high-quality programs that meet the special behavioral, communication and other needs of children with ASD.

Previous research has shown that when children with ASD have access to early intervention via treatment programs, they improve developmentally. Until now, however, debate has persisted over which approach to use, said Boyd. The study appeared in the June issue of Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Two frequently used comprehensive treatment models have a long history: LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and their Parents) and TEACCH (now known only by its acronym).

FPG's study examined the relative effects of the LEAP and TEACCH school-based comprehensive treatment models when compared to each other and to special-education programs that do not use a specific model. The multisite study took place only in high-quality classrooms and enrolled 74 teachers and 198 3- to 5-year-olds in public school districts.

The study found that children made gains over the school year regardless of the classroom's use of LEAP, TEACCH or no specific comprehensive treatment model. "Each group of children showed significant positive change in autism severity, communication and fine- motor skills," said Kara Hume, FPG scientist and co-author. "No statistically significant differences were found among models, which challenged our initial expectations—and likely the field's."

"This study may shift the field's thinking about comprehensive treatment models designed for young with ASD," said co-author Samuel L. Odom, FPG's director and the study's principal investigator. "Perhaps it's not the unique features of the models that most contribute to child gains but the common features of the models that most influence child growth."

Explore further: Validating preschool programs for children with autism

More information: "Comparative Efficacy of LEAP, TEACCH and Non-Model-Specific Special Education Programs for Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorders," Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, published online June 2013. link.springer.com/article/10.1 … 07/s10803-013-1877-9

Related Stories

Validating preschool programs for children with autism

May 19, 2011
Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Department of Psychology participated in a multi-site study to examine different teaching models for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study is one of the first ...

Training program meets 'critical need' for earlier autism identification

July 11, 2013
A Vanderbilt research program that trains community pediatricians to diagnose autism within their individual practices may lead to more effective treatment of the disorder that now affects an estimated one in 88 children.

ASD early intervention found cost effective through school years

May 1, 2013
The Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a comprehensive behavioral early intervention program that is appropriate for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as young as 12 months, has been found to reduce the need for ...

Early treatment sparks striking brain changes in autism

November 6, 2012
When given early treatment, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) made significant improvements in behavior, communication, and most strikingly, brain function, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new ...

Nearly one-third of children with autism also have ADHD

June 5, 2013
In a study of the co-occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in early school-age children (four to eight years old), researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute found ...

Health-care disparities exist for children with autism spectrum disorders, researcher says

June 11, 2012
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) require an array of specialized health care services. With these services come higher costs for parents and insurance providers. University of Missouri researchers compared costs ...

Recommended for you

Late-breaking mutations may play an important role in autism

July 17, 2017
A study of nearly 6,000 families, combining three genetic sequencing technologies, finds that mutations that occur after conception play an important role in autism. A team led by investigators at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Females with autism show greater difficulty with day-to-day tasks than male counterparts

July 14, 2017
Women and girls with autism may face greater challenges with real world planning, organization and other daily living skills, according to a study published in the journal Autism Research.

Researchers investigate possible link between carnitine deficiency and autism

July 13, 2017
Researchers are always looking for new clues to the causes of autism, with special emphasis on prevention or treatment. At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Arthur Beaudet has been following clinical and genetic clues in patients ...

How children look at mom's face is influenced by genetic factors and altered in autism

July 12, 2017
New research has uncovered compelling evidence that genetics plays a major role in how children look at the world and whether they have a preference for gazing at people's eyes and faces or at objects.

Oxytocin improves social abilities in some kids with autism, study finds

July 10, 2017
Children with autism showed improved social behavior when treated with oxytocin, a hormone linked to social abilities, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Children with low ...

Possible early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

June 29, 2017
Measuring a set of proteins in the blood may enable earlier diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study from the Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.