The behaviour of pre-school children with autism improves the most in the first six months of early intervention, research at RMIT University has shown. Dr Helen Chau investigated early intervention in pre-school children with autism or developmental delay as part of her PhD research at RMIT, comparing the effectiveness of intensive, one-on-one therapy sessions with more traditional centre-based early intervention approaches. Examining the impact of generic centre-based programs, autism-specific centre-based programs and home-based applied behaviour analysis (ABA) programs, Dr Chau found most behaviour improvement occurred in the first six months, irrespective of the early intervention approach taken. “Children who attended either home-based or centre-based early intervention for six months demonstrated a larger reduction of autism-related behaviours than in the following six months,” she said. “The different approaches both had benefits - centre-based programs tended to improve social competence, while home-based programs improved self-help skills. “While more hours of intervention per week was generally associated with more effective developmental outcomes, it was not clear from my research that the home-based programs led to substantially better outcomes for children with autism, compared with centre-based intervention.”
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