Stephen J. Sheinkopf and Bryna Siegel
Research has been shown that intensive behavioral therapy can yield significant improvements in an autistic child's cognitive development and behavioral presentation (Lovaas, 1987; McEachin, Smith & Lovaas, 1993), but there is much controversy regarding the applicability of this intervention treatment outside of the presented study parameters.
Goal: This study aims to analyze the effectiveness of intense behavior therapy in a community setting on young children who have been diagnosed with autism or PDD without the influence of a university center and without researchers conducting the behavioral therapy.
Methods The control group contained 11 children, and the experimental group contained 11 children, all of whom were taken from a larger longitudinal study on autistic youth. The children in the control group were matched to the children in the experimental group based on chronological age, mental age, pre- and post-treatment interval, and diagnosis (autism vs. PDD-NOS). Children were matched by both chronological and mental ages within 6 months of each other, therefore there were no differences in post-treatment chronological age. Ten of the pairs had been diagnosed with autism, while the remaining pair were both diagnosed with PDD-NOS. The study's participants contained 21 boys and one girl.
Treatment information was obtained via phone interviews with the children's parents. The time elapsed between pre- and post- intervention was 20.36 months and 18.09 months for the control group. Treatment was conducted in part by trained behavior therapists, but most treatment was conducted by parents, who focused on an array of language, problem solving and social skills.
Pre-intervention IQ difference was not statistically significant between the control and experimental groups, with t(8)=0.29, p=0.78. Post-intervention IQ showed a statistically significant difference, with t(8)=3.36, p=.01.
Symptoms rated as positive between control and experimental groups did not reach statistical significance t(10)=.94, p=37, but many of the children in the experimental group had their diagnosis reclassified to a less severe disorder.
This study showed that children who underwent home-based behavioral therapy in the field greatly benefited from this treatment without the direct supervision of an academic institution.
When comparing this study to Lovaas (1987) and McEachin et al. (1993), the results are inconsistent. This inconsistency could be due to the difference in length of time in this study compared to the other studies it is comparing itself against. A second interesting point to note is that even with the decreased amount of time this treatment spanned versus Lovaas and McEachin's studies, there was still a significant increase in cognitive gains in this current study. A third point is that participants in the experimental group of this study showed increases in IQ compared to the control group.