Subgroups of Preschoolers with Autism and Influential Factors of Their Responses to TEACCH, LEAP, and Non-Model-Specific Preschool Programs Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 27, 2019
  • Zheng, Shuting
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show a wide range of developmental characteristics and differ from each other in terms of symptom presentation. This heterogeneity leads to difficulties when trying to individualize treatments that work for individual children with ASD. Therefore, identifying and understanding subgroups of children on the spectrum and the potential influential factors that affect intervention outcomes are critical tasks. This dissertation aims to: (1) determine distinct subgroups of preschoolers with ASD based on pre-intervention developmental and behavioral measures and describe the profiles of the subgroups, (2) examine child or family factors that influence changes in social communication development over time for preschoolers in TEACCH, LEAP, and non-model-specific (NMS) classrooms. To address these aims, secondary data analysis was conducted using data from a larger study to compare the efficacy of three comprehensive treatment programs (i.e., TEACCH, LEAP, and NMS programs) that serve preschool-aged children with ASD. Cluster analysis identified three distinct subgroups of preschoolers with ASD in the current sample (N = 198) based on the children’s comprehensive developmental profiles: Cluster 1 (N = 76; 38.58%) was the moderate functioning group of children with low levels of cognitive and language abilities but few social difficulties and repetitive behaviors; Cluster 2 (N = 69; 35.03%) was the high functioning group of children with high levels of cognitive and language abilities and moderate levels of social difficulties and repetitive behaviors; and Cluster 3 (N = 52; 26.4%) was the low functioning group of children who showed the most delays across all aspects of development in the current sample. Fuzzy regression discontinuity design was applied to examine the effects of influential factors on intervention outcomes as measured by social impairment change scores. Specifically, this study examined the effects of child cognitive ability, language ability, autism severity level, and parent stress level. Among these four factors, the level of parent stress on the intervention outcomes in the group comparisons (TEACCH vs. NMS and TEACCH vs. LEAP) was the only significant factor, indicating that children of parents with higher stress levels show greater decreases in social difficulties/impairments as measured by Social Responsiveness Scale change scores (i.e., these children showed improvement in social functioning and development). Analyses of regression discontinuity plots also showed the preliminary effects of child factors on intervention outcomes. Limitations of the current study and implications for future research and practice also are discussed.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Crais, Elizabeth
  • Houck, Eric
  • Able, Harriet
  • Body, Brian
  • Hume, Kara
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

This work has no parents.