Intensive behavioral intervention for young children diagnosed with autism can produce large gains in social, cognitive, and language development. Although several studies have identified behaviors that are possible indicators of best outcome, changes in performance are typically measured using norm-referenced standardized scores referencing overall functioning level rather than via repeated observational measures of autism-specific deficits (i.e., social behavior). In the current study, 83 children with autism (CWA), aged 1, 2 and 3 years, and 58 same-aged typically developing children (TDC) were directly observed in the areas of cognitive skills, joint attention (JA), play, and stereotypic behavior using a measure called the Early Skills Assessment Tool (ESAT; MacDonald et al., 2006). CWA were assessed at entry into an EIBI program and again after 1 year of treatment. Changes in performance were compared pre- and post-treatment as well as to the normative data by age. Results indicate significant gains on the ESAT across all age groups with the greatest gains seen in the children who entered treatment prior to their second birthday. Increases were seen on direct measures of JA, play, imitation and language while decreases were seen in stereotypy regardless of level of performance at entry into EIBI. The ESAT, a direct measurement tool, served as a sensitive tool to measure changes in autism symptomatology following EIBI treatment.
Keywords: ABA; Applied behavior analysis; Autism; EIBI; Early intensive behavioral intervention; Outcome.
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