A Thematically Structured Educational Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: This study was conducted to examine the prelimiary effects of this educational program on social and communicatino skills of children with ASD.
Methods: A quasi-experimental pre-test/post-test intervention group vs. waitlist control group design was used. Fifth-six children (46 males; 10 females) with an ASD between the ages of 3 and 12 years participated in this study. The inclusion criteria for children with ASD in this study included: (a) the child had a clinical diagnosis of pervasive developmental disorder, autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS); (b) the child was between the ages of 3 and 12 years; and (c) the child’s score on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition (CARS-2) was ≥ 30. This thematically structured educational program consisted of ten 120-minutes sessions and it was delivered once a week over the course of 10-weeks. Each intervention session was led by one theme and composed of four 30-minutes sequential segments: (a) dance party, (b) an interactive story, (c) language arts/math/science, and (d) arts projects. A curriculum detailed teaching activities was developed for each session and teachers in the program were trained to use the curriculum.
Results: Mann-Whitney U tests were used to determine the differences between the intervention group and the control group in the improvements in communication and social interaction. The results of Mann-Whitney U tests showed that (a) communication skills improvements as measured by Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition (EOWPVT-4; Martin & Brownell, 2011a), Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition (ROWPVT-4; Martin & Brownell, 2011b), and Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Second Edition-Parent/Caregiver Rating Form (VABS-II-Parent/Caregiver; Sparrow, Cicchetti, & Balla, 2005)communication in the intervention group were significantly greater than those in the control group (EOWPVT: Z = 2.84, p < .01; ROWPVT: Z = 3.92, p < .001; Vineland-II communication: Z = 3.22, p < .001); (b) social interaction skills improvements as measured by Social Skills Rating System-Parent Form (SSRS-Parent; Gresham & Elliott, 1990) and Vineland-II socialization in the intervention group were significantly greater than those in the control group (SSRS-Parent: Z = 3.21, p < .001; Vineland-II socialization: Z = 3.66, p < .001).
Conclusions: This study found that the children with ASD who received this program showed significantly greater improvements in communication skills and social interaction skills than did the children who were in the waitlist control group. This educational program appears to hold promise in fostering the development of social interaction and communication skills of children with ASD.