Preschool treatment of autism spectrum disorders: Analysis of a combined approach

Stephanie Paleo, Pace University


Early treatment methods developed for educating children with autism vary widely in approach and also level of empirical validation. Many intervention programs are based on one of the approaches; however, some programs combine approaches. One program combines Applied Behavior Analysis with the Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children. No prior research has been conducted on this combined approach. This study evaluated this approach in promoting developmental gains and reducing autistic behavior, and investigated if any pre-intervention characteristics are associated with amount of gain in developmental rate. Subjects were 50 children with an autism spectrum disorder, who attended a full day center-based program. The subjects were assessed through the use of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (Parent), and The Early Learning Accomplishment Profile-Revised Edition/The Learning Accomplishment Profile-Revised Edition for one to two years. Due to different subtests of each of these measures some abilities were measured via parent and teacher report, while others only by one of the two. Significant increases in developmental rate were found during the first year in expressive language, overall language development, cognitive ability, and prehandwriting ability. Increase in developmental rate was also found in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, daily living skills, and socialization according to teacher, but not parent report. The children who continued in the program for a second year had additional significant increases in developmental rate in expressive language and overall language (parent, but not teacher report). According to parent report, children's gains in developmental rate of daily living skills and gross motor skills were greater during the second year than during the first year of the program. Teacher report results indicated that the increase in overall language developmental rate was significantly higher during the first year in program than during the second year. A significant reduction in autistic symptomotology during both the first and second year in the program was found, with the yearly reduction in score similar during the two years. An overall reduction during two years in the program was also found. A higher initial rate of development was found to be associated with a smaller increase in developmental rate for fine motor skills, gross motor skills, total motor skills, and prehandwriting skills. The same trend was also found based on teacher report but not on parent report for social/emotional, language, and daily living skills development. According to parent, but not teacher report, a lower level of autistic symptomotology was associated with greater developmental gains in language and daily living skills during the first year in the program, and daily living skills and socialization during the second year in the program. The results of the current study indicate that further research of combined programs is necessary to determine if these programs might be more effective than single approach programs in reducing autistic symptomotology and promoting developmental gains in preschoolers with autism.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Behaviorial sciences

Recommended Citation

Paleo, Stephanie, "Preschool treatment of autism spectrum disorders: Analysis of a combined approach" (2005). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3148819.



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