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A Randomized, Controlled Trial of a Home-Based Intervention Program for Children with Autism and Developmental Delay

Rickards, Anne L. PhD*‡; Walstab, Janet E. BSc*‡; Wright-Rossi, Roslyn A. BEd*†; Simpson, Jacquie BSpEd*†; Reddihough, Dinah S. MD*†‡

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: August 2007 - Volume 28 - Issue 4 - p 308-316
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e318032792e
Original Article

Objective: This study aimed to (1) investigate whether provision of a home-based program in addition to a center-based program improves development in young children with disabilities and coping abilities of their families and (2) describe the characteristics of children and families who benefit most from the intervention.

Methods: Fifty-nine children, aged 3–5 years, with no cerebral palsy, participated in the study. Half of the group was randomized to receive an additional program in their homes. A special education teacher provided 40 visits over 12 months working with the families to help generalize skills to the home environment and assist with their concerns. All children were assessed before and after the intervention, and families completed questionnaires assessing family stress, support, and empowerment on both occasions. Differences in change over time and between the intervention and control group were analyzed by repeated measures and the association between characteristics of children and families with improved outcome by multivariate analysis of variance.

Results: Change in cognitive development and behavior (in the centers) over time favored the children who received the extra intervention (p = .007 and p = .007, respectively). The groups did not differ on any of the family measures of change. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed more improvement for children in the intervention group from higher than lower stressed families.

Conclusions: Results suggest the need for daily reinforcement of skills learned at the center-based program and the importance of involving families, especially those with few resources and relatively high stress.

From *Murdoch Childrens Research Institute; †Department of Child Development and Rehabilitation, Royal Children's Hospital; ‡Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia.

Received May 2006; accepted December 2006.

This study was supported by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Jack Brockhoff Foundation.

Address for reprints: Anne L. Rickards, Ph.D., Department of Child Development and Rehabilitation, Royal Children's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, 3052; e-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.