A growing number of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are now diagnosed before their third birthday, increasing there is a need for appropriate and effective community intervention programs for toddlers. There is a general consensus of the benefits from early intervention services. This study examines the outcomes for a group of 102 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2 who attended an inclusive toddler program until age 3 after an average of 8 months of intervention. This study represents the largest description of outcomes for toddlers with ASD in a community inclusion program. Overall, this quasi-experimental examination provides support for a community inclusion model that combines evidence-based intervention methods. On the whole the children made statistically and clinically significant gains in developmental level, receptive and expressive communication, and adaptive behavior.
The present quasi-experimental study examines the outcomes for a group of 102 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2 who attended an inclusive toddler program (described by Stahmer and Ingersoll, 2004) until age 3. Outcomes on standardized developmental assessments indicate significant improvement, with large effect sizes, in developmental level, adaptive behavior and communication. Thirty-one of the children (31%) were functioning in the typically developing range when they exited the program at age 3, after an average of 8 months of intervention. Predictors of positive outcomes included length of time in the program, level of words and gestures use at entry and higher externalizing and lower internalizing behavior CBCL scores at entry. Implications for serving toddlers with autism in inclusive settings and suggestions for future research directions are discussed.
Stahmer, A., Akshoomoff, N., & Cunningham, A. (2011). Inclusion for toddlers with autism spectrum disorders: The first ten years of a community program Autism, 15 (5), 625-641 DOI: 10.1177/1362361310392253