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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Feb;53(2):188-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.09.019. Epub 2013 Oct 17.

Preschool-based social communication treatment for children with autism: 12-month follow-up of a randomized trial.

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Oslo University Hospital, Norway. Electronic address:
Oslo University Hospital, Norway.
Oslo University Hospital, Norway; University of Oslo, Norway.
Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Eastern and Southern Norway, Oslo, Norway.



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;; NCT00378157.


autism; follow-up; language; preschool-based treatment; social communication

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