Amelia Yanchik* , Leah Esther Lax, Peter Vietze, Deborah L. Vietze
The effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to treat young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has long been established. Natural Environment Teaching (NET) is an effective adaptation to Discrete Trial Training (DTT). Children with ASD respond to ABA intervention differentially. Treatment with an optimal curriculum is crucial to treatment effectiveness and research on naturalistic treatments is under-researched in community-based settings. Three intervention approaches were compared: (1) DTT only; (2) DTT and NET combined; (3) NET only. This study predicts that differential effects of curricula provided to children with ASD less than three years-of age will result in different outcomes. All treatments led to improved language, cognitive outcomes, and a reduction in ASD symptoms. The NET only children improved most significantly with mean group scores in the normal range of cognitive and language development, and ASD symptoms in the non-autistic range. Adding NET to an ABA intervention for toddlers with ASD improves developmental outcomes demonstrating the benefit of using naturalistic behavioral intervention techniques in early intervention. This research extends the scope of naturalistic behavioral interventions by examining its benefits over traditional discrete trial interventions in a real-world community-based early intervention center for toddlers less than 3 years of age. Naturalistic behavioral interventions are under-researched in community-based early intervention settings although these setting are where most children receive intervention services. This research provides support for the use of NET and aids in the refinement of ABA curricula protocols for young children with ASD. The study also adds support to the effectiveness of using ABA in community-based early intervention programs for children on the autism spectrum.