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Institute of Education Sciences


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IES Grant

Title: LEAP - USA (Using Science-Based Approaches)
Center: NCSER Year: 2006
Principal Investigator: Strain, Phillip Grantee: University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
Program: Early Intervention and Early Learning in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3/1/2006 to 2/28/2010 Award Amount: $1,809,917
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324E060068
Description:

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to assess the efficacy of LEAP-USA in achieving positive child and family outcomes as a model of intervention for young children with autism. The researchers intend to examine the differential effects on key outcomes resulting from high-fidelity implementation.

Project Activities: The project is designed to address the following research questions:

  1. What are the effects of a manual only and manual plus training model on the social behavior, symptoms, cognitive development, and language development of children with autism who are 3–5 years of age?
  2. What are the effects of the intervention on family stress and insularity?

The researchers will examine the efficacy of the LEAP-USA model over the course of four years and in 60 randomly assigned classrooms throughout the US. Thirty classrooms will be assigned to receive LEAP treatment manuals only and thirty other classrooms will receive the manuals along with the research team's 2-year training and mentoring model. Two hundred forty 3–5 year old children with autism and their families will participate in treatment and comparison classrooms. Analyses will monitor changes in children's social behavior, autism symptoms, cognitive development, and language development as well as changes in family members' stress and insularity over time. Three-level hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) will be employed for each outcome measure.

Products: The expected outcomes from this study include:

  1. Published reports on the efficacy of the LEAP-USA model for use with 3–5 year old children with autism and their families, the results of the evaluation of moderators of the treatment effects, and results assessing the fidelity of implementation,
  2. A comparison of the differential effects on student outcomes for the manual only version of the LEAP program as compared to the version including the manual, professional development and support, and
  3. Presentations on teacher opinions of the compatibility of the program and a cost analysis of anticipated vs. unanticipated costs.

Setting: LEAP programs in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

Population: Approximately 240 students, ages 3–5, in 60 LEAP classrooms will participate. Classrooms selected to participate will be randomly assigned to either a manual only or manual plus training support condition.

Intervention: Preschools assigned to the full LEAP replication protocol will enter a 2-year training and mentoring relationship with project staff. In order to instruct replication site participants in the basic LEAP components, the intervention will employ a seven-phase educational model, comprised of: a) presentation of skill area to be learned in written format; b) discussion of skill area between trainee(s) and trainer(s); c) demonstration of skills by LEAP trainers with simultaneous observation by trainee(s); d) in-vivo practice by trainee(s) with observation and feedback provided by trainer; e) evaluation of trainee competency based upon direct observation or permanent product; f) training of on-site supervisor to support direct-line replication staff; and g) follow-up training and maintenance checks on a three month basis.

Research Design and Methods: The experimental analysis will monitor changes in children's social behavior, autism symptoms, cognitive development, and language development. Changes in family members' stress and insularity will be assessed over time. Three-level hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) will be employed for each outcome measure. Level-1 will model the growth trajectories of children over time. Level-2 will reflect characteristics of individual children, such as age-at-start and entering developmental functioning and characteristics of families such as education, income-level, and stress. Level-3 will reflect characteristics of the classrooms, including experimental condition, prior education of teachers and implementation fidelity.

Control Condition: Preschools assigned to the comparison condition will be provided LEAP's intervention manuals for: a) family skill training; b) social skills training and c) design and operation of the inclusive classroom. No follow-along training will be provided at the sites. District administrators will be interviewed on a yearly basis to track the amount and type of general training afforded to staff.

Key Measures: The effects of the two intervention conditions on children with autism and their families will be evaluated using commercial and non-commercial measures. Key measures include, for example, Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Mullen Scales of Early Learning, and a questionnaire on resources and stress. The frequency in which measures are administered varies from every 3 months to once a year. Finally, data on fidelity as well as long-term sustainability and cost will be collected.

Data Analytic Strategy: Quantitative data analysis techniques include hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to evaluate the efficacy and replicability of the LEAP intervention. For each outcome measure a 3 level HLM will be conducted. Level-1 will model the growth trajectories of children over time. Level-2 will reflect characteristics of the individual children and characteristics of the families. Level-3 will reflect characteristics of the classroom.

Publications from this project:

Strain, P. S., & Bovey, E. H. (2011). Randomized, controlled trial of the LEAP model of early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 31 (3), 133–154.


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