Intervention Programs for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Development, Implementation, and Outcomes
Cox, Stephany, Clinical Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Reeve, Ronald, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
My research focuses on the development, implementation, and outcomes of intervention programs for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The variation of the clinical phenotype and uncertain developmental trajectory of this population make these efforts especially challenging. My dissertation is comprised of three manuscripts investigating interventions designed to target skill development at two distinct developmental stages: early childhood and late adolescence.
The first manuscript, entitled Comparative Effectiveness of Behavioral and Developmental Approaches in Communication Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, was a preliminary comparison of intervention approaches within the setting of an intensive six-week intervention focused on speech and language skills. This study examined four approaches: Behavioral, Developmental, and two combined approaches.
The second manuscript, Driving Performance in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A pilot study investigating the role of executive functioning, is targeted for this often-overlooked population and aims to assist individuals in the mastery of a skill essential to achieving this independence, driving. The purpose of the second study was to examine differences in driving skills between adolescents and young adults with ASD and non-ASD participants through the use of a Virtual Reality Driving Simulator (VRDS). Additionally, the second study aimed to better understand the role of executive functioning in these differences and overall driving performance with the ultimate goal of utilizing this information for the refinement of a VRDS training program for individuals with ASD.
The third manuscript, An Evaluation of Behavioral and Developmental Communication Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, primarily focused on the feasibility and accessibility of intervention programs. This investigation is an expansion on the first study with a more comprehensive battery and additional data collection points to provide more information about communication as well as ASD symptomatology, cognitive abilities, adaptive skills, intervention history, and satisfaction with the program. The primary aims of this study were to evaluate the feasibility of enrolling, retaining, treating, and tracking outcomes after treatment. Secondary aims were the preliminary examination of treatment outcomes and therapist acceptance of the protocol.
The three studies included in this dissertation emphasize the benefits of intervention programming for individuals with ASD as well as the necessity for the continued development and enhancement of these programs, especially for young children and adolescents. Families, community members, and professionals who work with this specialized population recognize the heterogeneity of the autism spectrum as well as the multitude of interventions available. These investigations represent the initial steps in the development of large-scale empirical studies with the ultimate goal of establishing evidence-based intervention programs to increase access and refine best practices to improve outcomes for children and families affected by ASD.
PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Autism Spectrum Disorder, Early Intervention, Communication, Language, Automobile Driving, Driving Simulator, Executive Functioning, Program Development
The first manuscript, Comparative Effectiveness of Behavioral and Developmental Approaches in Communication Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder was presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention in 2013. Preliminary results from the second study, Driving Performance in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A pilot study investigating the role of executive functioning, were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research and American Psychological Association Convention in 2013. Upon completion, results were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in 2015. This manuscript has been revised and resubmitted to the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities. The third study, An Evaluation of Behavioral and Developmental Communication Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder was presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention in 2014 and will be submitted to the appropriate refereed journal upon completion.
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