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Institute of Education Sciences


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IES Grant

Title: Comprehensive Autism Program using Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research
Center: NCSER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Young, Helen Grantee: Portland State University
Program: Autism Spectrum Disorders      [Program Details]
Award Period: 04/01/2009 - 03/31/2013 Award Amount: $2,561,416
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A090094
Description:

Purpose: With an increasing number of young children with autism spectrum disorders in public schools, local and state education agencies must find cost-effective, research-based preschool programs that educators can use. To date, many programs for children with autism spectrum disorders have not been empirically evaluated. Minimal guidance is therefore available for educators and other school personnel for determining which approaches may be best to use with children with autism spectrum disorders. Despite limited empirical support for any particular approach, experts agree that the earlier a child with an autism spectrum disorder can be enrolled in a program to specifically address academic and life skills, the better.

Researchers in this study are evaluating the Comprehensive Autism Program Using Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research, which is a comprehensive program for preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders. The program is intended to improve language, pre-academic skills, social skills, adaptive behavior, and cognitive skills for children with autism spectrum disorders. The intervention incorporates multiple recommended strategies and approaches for teaching young children with autism spectrum disorders, but rigorous evidence of the efficacy of the entire program is limited. The intervention will be compared to a typical classroom service model serving young children with autism spectrum disorders. The researchers are including key outcomes related to the learning and development of young children with autism spectrum disorders and exploring factors that may mediate and moderate outcomes. The researchers will also be examining key outcomes for children after one and two years of the intervention.

Project Activities. Approximately 300 children with autism spectrum disorders ages 2–5 will participate in the study. Recruitment will take place in 120 classrooms or programs (minimum of 5 students per classroom). In Year 1, the first cohort of classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the Comprehensive Autism Program Using Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research or typical classroom service model. In Year 2, the second cohort of classrooms will be randomly assigned to the intervention or typical service model. Outcomes of interest include children's pre-academic, language, cognitive, and adaptive behavior skills. A cluster randomized design with repeated measures will be used to evaluate the treatment models after one and two years of participation in the intervention.

Products: The products from this study include published reports and presentations describing the effects of the Comprehensive Autism Program Using Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research on the pre-academic, language, cognitive, and adaptive behavior skills of children ages 2–5 diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Setting: Participating children will be from Oregon and Washington.

Population: Approximately 120 classrooms or programs (minimum of 5 students per classroom) that include children ages 2–5 identified with autism spectrum disorder will participate. Instruction will be provided by a trained classroom teacher at the individual and classroom level.

Intervention: The Comprehensive Autism Program Using Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research will be compared to the typical classroom service model.

Comprehensive Autism Program Using Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research is a fully developed, manualized program for children with autism spectrum disorder between the ages of 2 and 5 years. A curriculum based assessment tool is used to individually design a child's program based on his or her current strengths and learning needs. The program uses discrete trial training and pivotal response training as teaching strategies for curriculum content related to language, pre-academic skills and social skills as well as functional routines to build adaptive skills. Another component of the intervention is training parents to use naturalistic teaching strategies and applied behavior analysis strategies to support the generalization of skills at home and in the community. The intervention combines instruction in one-to-one, group, and family settings.

Research Design and Methods: The study will utilize a cluster randomized design with repeated measures to evaluate language, pre-academic, social, adaptive behavior, and cognitive outcomes of children being served in classrooms that utilize the intervention or typical classroom service model. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the Comprehensive Autism Program Using Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research or typical classroom service model.

Control Condition: The control condition will be the typical classroom service model. Teachers in the control condition will receive the training offered by the program or school district.

Key Measures: The curriculum will be evaluated using commercial and non-commercial measures. Outcome measures include the Autism Screening Instrument for Educational Planning — 3, Battelle Developmental Inventory, Expressive Language One-Word Picture Vocabulary Tests, Picture Peabody Vocabulary Test —4, Social Skills Rating System, Vineland Adaptive Behavior Composite, and the Woodcock-Johnson III Test of Achievement. Other measures include Childhood Autism Rating Scale, teacher measures (e.g. perception of child's progress), family measures (e.g., parent perception of child's progress), observational assessments, and treatment and fidelity measures will also be administered.

Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical linear models will serve as the primary data analytic strategy and moderator and mediator effects will be explored. For all analyses, including those comparing outcomes and examining moderation and mediation effects, separate multivariate nested models will be used.


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