Effect of preemptive intervention on developmental outcomes among infants showing early signs of autism: A randomized clinical trial of outcomes to diagnosis

Published September 2021


Intervention for individuals on the autism spectrum typically commences after diagnosis. No trial of an intervention administered to infants before diagnosis has shown an effect on diagnostic outcomes to date.

This study questioned if preemptive intervention compared with usual care reduce autism-related behaviours and the likelihood of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis in infants showing early signs of autism.

In this randomized clinical trial of 103 infants showing early behavioural signs of autism, preemptive intervention led to a statistically significant reduction in the severity of autism behaviours across early childhood. Infants who received the preemptive intervention had lower odds of meeting diagnostic criteria for ASD (7%) than those who received usual care (21%) at age 3 years, with a number needed to treat of 7 participants.

This study found that a preemptive intervention reduced ASD diagnostic behaviours when used at the time atypical development first emerges during infancy.
Whitehouse AJO, Varcin KJ, Pillar S, et al. (2021). Effect of Preemptive Intervention on Developmental Outcomes Among Infants Showing Early Signs of Autism: A Randomized Clinical Trial of Outcomes to Diagnosis. JAMA Pediatrics. Online. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.3298

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