Outcomes for Children Receiving the Early Start Denver Model in a Mainstream Versus Autism-Specific Setting: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial
Objectives: To examine the outcomes of an evidence based early intervention program provided in a community childcare center for children in an autism versus mainstream setting.
Methods: We conducted a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART RCT) involving 32 toddlers with ASD. Half participants were randomly assigned to receiving an evidence-based early intervention program (the Early Start Denver Model) in a playroom that only includes children with ASD (autism-specific setting group), and the other half (social inclusion group) received the same intervention within a mainstream setting with neurotypical peers. Participants’ communication, adaptive behaviour and autism symptoms was measured at baseline and after 1 year post-intervention.
Results: Preliminary analyses including 8 children in each group revealed that both groups equally improved in their communication from baseline to post-treatment, as assessed through the Mullen Scales (Repeated Measures ANOVA, F (1, 14) = 8.3, p =.01, ηp2 = .37), and experienced a reduction of ASD symptoms, as assessed through the Social Communication Questionnaire ((F (1, 14) = 9.73, p <.01, ηp2 = .40). While both groups significantly improved in their adaptive behaviour as assessed through the Vineland ((F (1, 14) = 12.46, p <.005, ηp2 = .47), there was a trend suggesting superior gains in the social inclusion group ((F (1, 14) = 3.11, p =.09, ηp2 = .18).
Conclusions: Preliminary results suggest that receiving early intervention in a mainstream setting has the potential to be equally beneficial, and potentially more beneficial, than receiving the same intervention in an autism-specific setting.