Introduction: Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), developmental delays (DD), or learning disabilities (LD) constitute a growing population in need of specialized services. These children often present with a wide range of impairments that interfere with daily function. Aggressive interventions such as physical, occupational, speech and language, and behavior therapy can greatly improve a child's functioning. This study represents continuation and improvement of a collaborative and interdisciplinary effort among university faculty, academic units, community partners, and students, to evaluate a creative alternative to traditional therapy for an underserved population of children.
Purpose: To investigate short and long-term outcomes of intensive, short-duration, interdisciplinary therapy conducted in group format for children with disabilities and their families. Changes have been implemented in this current proposal that reflect findings from the 2007 project.
Method: Program staff and parents of 36 children, ages 4 through 15, will participate in the study. The study will employ a concurrent mixed methods design by converging both quantitative and qualitative data. Qualitative data will be collected through questionnaires and focus groups conducted with parents and program staff. Quantitative data will be collected via the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory (PEDI), and the Social Skills Rating Scale (SSRS).
Data Analysis: Data from questionnaires will be analyzed using standard frequency analysis to examine responses. Responses to open-ended questions and focus groups will be analyzed for common themes using the constant comparative method. Data collected through pre- and post-test measures using the SSRS and PEDI will be analyzed using a paired samples t-test.
Significance: Findings will contribute to current knowledge regarding the efficacy of intensive, interdisciplinary therapy programs in a peer-group setting for children with ASD, DD, or LD and their caregivers, and provide insight regarding parent training and compliance to home programming in order to maximize therapeutic outcomes over time.