Early treatments associated with optimal outcome in children with autism spectrum disorders

Date of Completion

January 2009


Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical




A growing body of evidence supports the notion that early intensive behavioral intervention is associated with positive gains in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), although it is not yet possible to draw definitive conclusions with respect to whether early intervention is both necessary and sufficient in achieving the most positive outcomes (i.e., "optimal outcome") from ASD. A recent report by Sutera et al. (2007) described a sample of 13 children diagnosed with ASD at approximately two years of age who, at re-evaluation at approximately four years of age, no longer met diagnostic criteria for ASD and scored within the average range on standardized measures of cognitive and adaptive functioning. ^ Aims of the present study are twofold: (1) to confirm and expand upon the findings of Sutera et al. (2007) utilizing a larger sample size; and (2) to examine associations between the age of onset of intervention and type(s) and number of hours of intervention services young children with ASD have received and a variety of outcome measures including cognitive functioning, adaptive skills, autistic symptomatology, and diagnostic status at around four years of age. ^ Consistent with Sutera et al.'s (2007) findings, early motor skills predicted outcome. Further, in the present study, a number of additional variables predicted outcome, including repetitive behavior symptoms, cognitive and adaptive skills and expressive language. Results revealed no significant predictive value of any of the treatment-related variables included in the present investigation, including age at which intervention began; total number of intervention hours provided before the age of 3; and intensity of intervention between the ages of 2.5 and 3 years. These findings and limitations of the current study are discussed within the context of the substantial body of research documenting the importance and effectiveness of early intervention in children with ASD. ^