Objectives: To establish whether an early intervention program based on the NRC’s (2001) recommendations can help children with ASD increase their language comprehension skills.
Methods: Two groups of children with ASD were matched on the Griffiths Mental Scales and chronological age (mean age 63 month). The experimental group (N=16) received a global intervention program for 15-20 hours per week following an individualised curriculum. Activities included many opportunities for children to practice effective listening behaviours and develop their receptive vocabulary. The control group (N=11) received standard treatments offered by education and health services. The children’s comprehension of labels, instructions and syntactically complex sentences was evaluated with the Picture Vocabulary Test and the Reynell Comprehension Subscale at baseline and after 1yr of intervention.
Results: The children in the experimental group (EG) improved significantly more than the control group (CG) on the Picture Vocabulary Test, progressing by 17 months (age equivalence) compared to 7 months in the CG. On the Reynell Comprehension Subscale the EG showed a gain of 16 months versus 3 months in the CG.
Conclusions: Children from the EG made significant gains in language comprehension, reducing the magnitude of their developmental delay. Conversely, the comprehension skills of most children from the control group continued to fall behind. A long term aim of our research is to analyse the effect of improvements in language comprehension on children’s expressive language skills.