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Institute of Education Sciences


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IES Grant

Title: Peer Networks Project: Improving Social-Communication, Literacy, and Adaptive Behaviors for Young Children with ASD
Center: NCSER Year: 2009
Principal Investigator: Kamps, Debra Grantee: University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc.
Program: Autism Spectrum Disorders      [Program Details]
Award Period: 03/01/2009 - 02/28/2013 Award Amount: $2,969,998
Goal: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A090091
Description:

Purpose: Literacy skills, social communication skills, and the ability to participate in groups are important for success in educational settings. However, many children with autism are not equipped with these skills, which may potentially limit these children's success in education settings. Moreover, interventions that are effective in peer inclusive education settings have yet to be determined for the estimated three to six children out of every 1,000 who will be diagnosed with autism.

Researchers in this study are evaluating the Peer Networks Intervention Project, a comprehensive social-communication and literacy intervention program that addresses early social-communication and interaction skills, reading and academic skills, and behavioral and adaptive functional skills for young children with autism spectrum disorder. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the intervention against a typical classroom service model serving young children with autism spectrum disorders.

Project Activities: Approximately 120 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders entering kindergarten will participate in the study. Children will be randomly assigned to either the intervention condition or the typical classroom service model. Schools in Kansas and Washington will participate. The intervention will be implemented for two years. Differential effects and rates of growth for academic, social communication, and behavioral performance outcomes will be determined for the children in the intervention and the typical classroom service model. Researchers will also examine how child characteristics and fidelity of implementation influence treatment outcomes.

Products: Products from this study will include published reports and presentations describing the efficacy of the Peer Networks Intervention Project as measured by a wide range of developmental skills for children in grades kindergarten to 1st grade diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Setting: Participating students will be from Kansas and Washington.

Population: Approximately 120 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder entering kindergarten will participate in the study.

Intervention: The Peer Networks Intervention has two components, Peer Network — Social Communication Skills, and Peer Network — Academic. Trained school personnel will provide instruction in small groups that includes the child with autism and 2 to 3 peers.

The Peer Network — Social Communication Skills component provides structured interactions with typical peers and encompasses social communication within small groups or dyads using leisure and daily living/functional activities. The structured interaction includes adult-led direct instruction of social and communication skills, child-adult practice, child-peer practice with adult feedback, and leisure activities with peer prompting of skill use.

The Peer Networks-Academic component involves the Reading Mastery curriculum. This curriculum provides instruction in phonemic and decoding skills. Teachers are provided scripted lessons and information on effective instructional strategies with a focus on accuracy and fluency. The curriculum will be implemented in small group lessons, 30 minutes in length, and taught daily by school personnel.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will utilize a clustered randomized design with repeated measures to evaluate the developmental outcomes of children being served in classrooms that utilize one of the two types of treatment models. Classrooms will be randomly assigned to either the Peer Networks Intervention Project or typical classroom service model.

Control Condition: The control condition will be the typical classroom service model.

Key Measures: The curriculum will be evaluated using commercial and non-commercial measures. Outcome measures include the The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills, Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals — Revised, 4th Ed, Reynell Developmental Language Scales, Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test; Social Skills Rating System; The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills; and the Woodcock Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities and Achievement. Observational and fidelity measures will also be administered.

Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical linear growth curve modeling will be used to analyze differences between the growth rates of treatment and control students' social skills, language and literacy, and adaptive skills. In addition, the researchers will investigate potential mediators (e.g., fidelity) and moderators (e.g., autism severity) of intervention effects.


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