Article

Preschool Based JASPER Intervention in Minimally Verbal Children with Autism: Pilot RCT

Center for Autism Research and Treatment, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California, 760 Westwood Plaza, Semel 67-464, Los Angeles, CA, 90024, USA, .
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.06). 09/2012; 43(5). DOI: 10.1007/s10803-012-1644-3
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In this pilot study, we tested the effects of a novel intervention (JASPER, Joint Attention Symbolic Play Engagement and Regulation) on 3 to 5 year old, minimally verbal children with autism who were attending a non-public preschool. Participants were randomized to a control group (treatment as usual, 30 h of ABA-based therapy per week) or a treatment group (substitution of 30 min of JASPER treatment, twice weekly during their regular program). A baseline of 12 weeks in which no changes were noted in core deficits was followed by 12 weeks of intervention for children randomized to the JASPER treatment. Participants in the treatment group demonstrated greater play diversity on a standardized assessment. Effects also generalized to the classroom, where participants in the treatment group initiated more gestures and spent less time unengaged. These results provide further support that even brief, targeted interventions on joint attention and play can improve core deficits in minimally verbal children with ASD.

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Available from: Ya-Chih Chang, Jun 24, 2015
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    ABSTRACT: This study reports 12-month follow-up data from a randomized controlled trial of preschool-based social communication treatment for young children with autism. A total of 61 children (48 males) with autism, 29 to 60 months of age, had earlier been randomized either to 8 weeks of preschool-based social communication treatment in addition to standard preschool program (n = 34) or to standard preschool program only (n = 27). Significant short-term effects on targeted social communication skills have previously been published. Long-term gains in social communication, language and global social functioning and communication were assessed from video-taped preschool teacher-child and mother-child interactions, Early Social Communication Scales, Reynell Developmental Language Scale, and Social Communication Questionnaire. Compared with those in the control group, the treated children achieved significantly larger improvements in joint attention and joint engagement from baseline to 12-month follow-up. However, no effects were detected on language and global ratings of social functioning and communication. The treatment effect on child initiation of joint attention increased with increasing level of sociability at baseline, whereas nonverbal IQ and expressive language had no moderating effect. This study is the first to show that, similar to specialist-delivered treatment, preschool-based treatment may produce small but possibly clinically important long-term changes in social communication in young children with autism. The treatment did not affect language and global ratings of social functioning and communication. More studies are needed to better understand whether treatment effects may be improved by increasing the intensity and duration of the treatment. Clinical trial registration information-Joint Attention Intervention and Young Children With Autism; http://clinicaltrials.gov/; NCT00378157.
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Review studies were selected on the basis that they reported on an applicable intervention (linked to ToM in one of four clearly-defined ways), presented new randomised controlled trial data, and participants had a confirmed diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Studies were selected by two review authors independently and a third author arbitrated when necessary. Risk of bias was evaluated and data were extracted by two review authors independently; a third author arbitrated when necessary. Most studies were not eligible for meta-analysis, the principal reason being mis-matching methodologies and outcome measures. Three small meta-analyses were carried out. Twenty-two randomised trials were included in the review (N = 695). Studies were highly variable in their country of origin, sample size, participant age, intervention delivery type, and outcome measures. Risk of bias was variable across categories. There were very few studies for which there was adequate blinding of participants and personnel, and some were also judged at high risk of bias in blinding of outcome assessors. There was also evidence of some bias in sequence generation and allocation concealment. Not all studies reported data that fell within the pre-defined primary outcome categories for the review, instead many studies reported measures which were intervention-specific (e.g. emotion recognition). The wide range of measures used within each outcome category and the mixed results from these measures introduced further complexity when interpreting results.Studies were grouped into four main categories according to intervention target/primary outcome measure. These were: emotion recognition studies, joint attention and social communication studies, imitation studies, and studies teaching ToM itself. Within the first two of these categories, a sub-set of studies were deemed suitable for meta-analysis for a limited number of key outcomes.There was very low quality evidence of a positive effect on measures of communication based on individual results from three studies. There was low quality evidence from 11 studies reporting mixed results of interventions on measures of social interaction, very low quality evidence from four studies reporting mixed results on measures of general communication, and very low quality evidence from four studies reporting mixed results on measures of ToM ability. The meta-analysis results we were able to generate showed that interventions targeting emotion recognition across age groups and working with people within the average range of intellectual ability had a positive effect on the target skill, measured by a test using photographs of faces (mean increase of 0.75 points, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.22 to 1.29 points, Z = 2.75, P < 0.006, four studies, N = 105). Therapist-led joint attention interventions can promote production of more joint attention behaviours within adult-child interaction (mean increase of 0.55 points, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.99 points, Z = 2.45, P value = 0.01, two studies, N = 88). Further analysis undermines this conclusion somewhat by demonstrating that there was no clear evidence that intervention can have an effect on joint attention initiations as measured using a standardised assessment tool (mean increase of 0.23 points, 95% CI -0.48 to 0.94 points, Z = 0.63, P value = 0.53, three studies, N = 92). No adverse effects were apparent. While there is some evidence that ToM, or a precursor skill, can be taught to people with ASD, there is little evidence of maintenance of that skill, generalisation to other settings, or developmental effects on related skills. Furthermore, inconsistency in findings and measurement means that evidence has been graded of 'very low' or 'low' quality and we cannot be confident that suggestions of positive effects will be sustained as high-quality evidence accumulates. Further longitudinal designs and larger samples are needed to help elucidate both the efficacy of ToM-linked interventions and the explanatory value of the ToM model itself. It is possible that the continuing refinement of the ToM model will lead to better interventions which have a greater impact on development than those investigated to date.
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