The major indicator for this measure of success is the percent of children with special needs who receive and improve with early intervention services.
Early intervention programs support positive development and long-term outcomes for children with special needs. Children with disabilities who participate in early intervention programs have been found to experience significant development gains after completing a program. Studies show that early intervention can help children with disabilities improve their abilities in social, adaptive, motor, communication, and cognitive development. Children with autism spectrum disorder who receive early intervention from birth to age five may exhibit higher levels of cognitive functioning, adaptive functioning, and social engagement. These cognitive, adaptive and social gains have been found to persist for years following the intervention. Children with autism spectrum disorder who receive early intervention may also experience reduced symptom severity following the intervention.
Benefits of early intervention are more pronounced for children who enroll in early intervention at earlier ages or grades than those who enroll later in life. Research shows that students with reading disorders who entered early intervention services in first or second grade had higher gains in reading scores by fourth and fifth grade than those who entered in third grade. Similarly, children with autism spectrum disorder who enrolled in early intervention services at a younger age exhibited higher IQ scores and adaptive behaviors, and lower ASD severity and reciprocal social interaction-communication disturbances.
- Landa_2018_Efficacy of Early Interventions for Infants: Review of multiple studies evaluating efficacy of early intervention programs for children under the age of five. Parent-mediated early intervention strategies were found to improve child vocabulary comprehension, as well as reduce autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptom severity. This was especially true when parent-child engagement was high (i.e., shared attention, parent synchrony in parent-child interactions). Early intensive behavioral interventions were found to improve cognitive abilities, as measured by IQ scores.
- Dawson et al_2015_Long-Term Outcomes of Early Intervention in 6-Year-Old Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder: Randomized control trial of 39 six year-old children who were diagnosed with ASD at age 18-30 months and who received the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) early intervention. ESDM is a high-intensity, in-home intervention. Found that those who received the intervention had improved intellectual and adaptive functioning, socialization and in some measures, reduced severity of core symptoms and challenging behaviors. These gains were maintained two years after the EDSM intervention. Evidence of reduced severity of core symptoms was not found immediately after the intervention, but was found at two-year follow-up.
- Smith et al_2015_Predicting Outcome of Community-Based: Analysis of 71 children aged 20-59 months old who were diagnosed with ASD and who received community-based early intensive behavioral interventions (EIBIs). Outcomes were recorded at both 12- and 24-month follow-up post-intervention. Measured cognitive skills, adaptive behavior, ASD severity, and social engagement. Results showed that children who received EIBI at a younger age exhibited higher IQ scores and adaptive behaviors, and lower ASD severity and reciprocal social interaction-communication disturbances. Also found evidence that receiving EIBI at a later age may lead to less successful therapeutic treatment later in life.
- Ehrhardt et al_2013_Special Education and Later Academic Achievement: Data collected from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, study which followed participants from kindergarten through eighth grade during 1998-2007. The study evaluated a total of 470 children who were identified as having a reading disorder to analyze whether the grade at which they received special education impacted their reading scores. Found that children who entered special needs education in first grade had higher gains in reading achievement scores by fourth and fifth grade than children who didn’t enter special needs education until second or third grade.
- Bruder_1993_The Provision of Early Intervention and Early Childhood: Evaluation of 30 infant and preschool-aged children with disabilities who received community-based early intervention services. Disabilities of the participants included Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and developmental, language, motor and speech delays, among other disabilities. Measured the effect of the early interventions on various domains, such as social, adaptive, motor, communication, and cognitive development. Found that children showed significant gains in all developmental domains by the conclusion of the intervention. Also, results showed increased engagement among participants after receiving the intervention.
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