The effect of classroom-based DIR treatment on young children with autism: IEP goals, parents' and educational professionals' sense of coherence
There has been a fast-growing body of literature about treatment methods that were developed to meet the needs of a surging population diagnosed with autism. The present study documents the use of an individualized treatment approach for autism, namely, the developmental, individual-difference, and relationship-based (DIR) model, in a pioneering classroom program with a public school district. Based on differences in the core theories and treatment techniques from the traditional, behavioral-oriented educational models, it was hypothesized there would be discrepancies between a DIR program and a traditional, non-DIR program in the treatment effects on the students, their caretaking parents, and the educational professionals involved. To understand the students' practical improvement, this study employed IEP goals as the students' outcome measure and Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale as the mothers' and educational professionals' measure of well-being.
The results showed that the mothers in the DIR program had higher SOC, especially in the subcategories of manageability and meaningfulness, than did their counterparts in the non-DIR program. For the educators, higher comprehensibility was associated with longer service in the DIR program, but not so in the non-DIR program. The data also supported a positive relationship between one SOC subcategory of the mothers, namely, their sense of manageability and their children's progress in self-help skills, regardless of their treatment programs. Therefore, the results suggest that there are observable benefits of using the DIR model in classroom settings, in terms of the mothers' and educators' well-being. The mothers' well-being may further reflect on their children's progress or the increased progress in the child's self-help skills may impact the mother's sense of manageability. Future research would be needed to establish the longer-term outcome of classroom-based DIR treatment with more participants involved. The present study nevertheless illustrates the practicality of utilizing IEP goals as outcome measures and gives new insight into how classroom-based treatment effects might extend to the caretakers as well as the educators, whose well-being should also be considered in choosing treatment options or designs.
0620: Developmental psychology