Early intensive intervention improves outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder

New study published in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Washington D.C., June 10, 2015 - A recent study published in the July 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry demonstrates that early intervention, beginning between 18 and 30 months of age improves outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at age 6.

Early intensive behavioral intervention is recognized an as efficacious approach for improving outcomes for young children with ASD. However, most studies of comprehensive, intensive intervention only report immediate outcomes at the end of intervention and the degree to which these outcomes are sustained over time is largely unknown.

Following children who participated in a randomized, controlled trial of the Early Start Denver Model, a group of researchers led by Dr. Annette Estes of the University of Washington Autism Center, evaluated long-term outcomes for 39 children at age 6 years. Participating children were randomized into community-intervention-as-usual or ESDM intervention for 2 years at an average of 15 hours per week. Outcomes were evaluated in terms of IQ, adaptive behavior, autism symptoms, challenging behavior, and diagnosis based on clinical examinations by experts who did not know previous intervention histories of the children and by parent reports of functioning at home and in the community.

Researchers found that the ESDM group, on average, maintained gains made in early intervention during the 2-year follow-up period in overall intellectual ability, adaptive behavior, symptom severity, and challenging behavior. This is important because children did not lose skills after the intervention trial ended and treatment hours were reduced. No group differences in core autism symptoms were found immediately post-treatment; however, two years later, the ESDM group demonstrated improved core autism symptoms and adaptive behavior as compared with the community-intervention-as-usual (COM) group. The two groups were not significantly different in terms of intellectual functioning at age 6. The two groups received equivalent intervention hours during the original study, but the ESDM group received fewer hours during the follow-up period.


The article "Long-Term Outcomes of Early Intervention in 6-Year-Old Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder" by Annette Estes, Jeffrey Munson, Sally J. Rogers, Jessica Greenson, Jamie Winter, Geraldine Dawson, appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 54, Issue 7 (July 2015), published by Elsevier.

Notes for editors

Full text of the article is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Mary Billingsley at +1 202 587 9672 or [email protected] Journalists wishing to interview the authors may contact Dr. Annette Estes at [email protected]

All articles published in JAACAP are embargoed until the day they are published as in press corrected proofs online at http://jaacap.org/inpress. Articles cannot be publicized as in press accepted manuscripts. Contents of the publication should not be released to or by the media or government agencies prior to the embargo date.


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families. http://www.jaacap.com

The journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions -- among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence and ClinicalKey -- and publishes over 2,500 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and more than 33,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works. Elsevier is part of RELX Group plc, a world-leading provider of information solutions for professional customers across industries. http://www.elsevier.com