delay-not otherwise specified, yielded improvements in IQ scores, but, there were no significant changes in the children’s diagnoses or their adaptive or problem behaviors (Smith et al., 2000b).
Most critiques of the outcome research generated by the Young Autism Project do not deny impressive child outcomes (Mesibov, 1993; Mundy, 1993); the debate centers on methodological issues related to subject selection and assessment measures (see Chapter 15). One of the most controversial issues surrounding the program pertains to descriptions of the best-outcome children in the 1987 study as “recovered” or “normal functioning,” especially in light of the paucity of measures of social or communicative functioning (McEachin et al., 1993).
Pre-post data on the preschool and overall Walden programs have been reported in non-peer-reviewed book chapters (McGee et al., 1994, 2000), and an evaluation of the family program is described by McGee and colleagues (McGee et al., 1993). Therefore, only the outcome data published on the toddler program is considered here. A total of 28 children with autism began intervention at an average age of 30 months, and those who participated in the program for at least 6 months were included (McGee et al., 1999). Pre-post comparisons without other experimental controls provide the majority of data. Videotaped observations of each child’s ongoing behavior were obtained daily across the first 10 days and last 10 days of enrollment in the toddler center. Results showed that although only 36 percent of the children were verbal at program entry, 82 percent of the children were verbalizing meaningful words by the time that they exited the toddler program to enter preschool. In addition, by the time of program exit, 71 percent of the children showed increases in the amount of time that they spent in close proximity to other children, with only one child showing levels of peer proximity that were outside the ranges displayed by typical children.
As a group, these studies show that intensive early intervention for children with autistic spectrum disorders makes a clinically significant difference for many children. The most systematic evaluation data are associated with intensive intervention approaches. However, each of the studies has methodological weaknesses, and most of the reports were descriptive rather than evaluations with controlled experimental research designs. There are virtually no data on the relative merit of one model over another, either overall or as related to individual differences in children; there is very limited information about interventions for children