Annette Estes, Ph.D., director of the University of Washington Autism Center, and colleagues prospectively examined evidence for the sustained effects of the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a comprehensive behavioral early intervention approach for children with autism, ages 12 to 48 months. The study included 39 children with ASD who began participation in a randomized clinical trial of ESDM between 18 and 30 months; clinicians who were naïve to previous intervention group status later assessed the children across multiple domains of functioning at age six, two years after ESDM ended.
The researchers found that the ESDM group maintained the gains made during early intervention across symptom domains at age six, including overall intellectual ability, adaptive behavior, symptom severity, and challenging behavior. While no group differences in core autism symptoms were found immediately posttreatment, the ESDM group demonstrated improved core autism symptoms compared with the community-intervention-as-usual group two years later. The two groups received equivalent intervention hours during the original study, but the ESDM group received fewer hours during the follow-up period, according to the report.
“These results provide evidence that gains from early intensive intervention are maintained two years later,” the authors state. “This is the first study to examine the role of early ESDM behavioral intervention initiated below 30 months of age in altering the longer term developmental course of autism.”
For more information about early ASD interventions, see the Psychiatric News article, “Intensive, Two-Year Intervention Benefits Kids With Autism.”
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