Key Components of the LEAP Preschool Model
1) Inclusion: Inclusion begins full-time from day one in LEAP Preschool classrooms. Children with ASD are provided with the necessary level(s) of prompting, classroom and curricular adaptations and modifications, and general support to participate immediately in peer-mediated social skill intervention.
2) Classroom Environment: LEAP classrooms begin with establishing a high quality setting for typically developing children. LEAP has been implemented effectively in classrooms utilizing a variety of preschool models and curricula including, the Creative Curriculum for Preschool – 4th Edition (Dodge, Colker & Heroman, 2002), High Scope and Head Start programs. Systematic intervention is embedded throughout typical preschool routines (e.g., circle time, free play/centers, snack, small groups, etc) with the aim of offering hundreds of meaningful, socially relevant learning opportunities every day.
3) Peer-Mediated Intervention: Typically developing children play a major intervention role in LEAP. The typically developing children are provided with comprehensive social skills training such that they can facilitate the social and communicative behaviors of peers with ASD. This systematic, peer-mediated instruction has been shown to produce a day-one intervention effect for the children with ASD (Strain & Schwartz, 2009).
4) Data and Data-based Decision Making: Learning objectives are written such that teaching continues until generalized behavior change is achieved. Learning objectives are further described according to relevant prompting hierarchies. Program data are collected on children’s behavioral movement towards the rigorous standard of independent, generalized performance, not in terms of percent correct, trials accomplished or similar indices. Data are reviewed daily and strict decision-making rules demand intervention changes in the absence of clear behavior change.
5) Program Intensity: Intensity in the LEAP model is not defined by hours per week that individuals are paid to deliver service. We believe that the algorithm defining intensity is complex and includes, for each developmental domain of concern, the following factors:
- number of meaningful opportunities to respond;
- the functionality of objectives chosen;
- the selection of an instructional method that maximizes children’s engagement and minimizes errors;
- the competence of staff to deliver with fidelity the chosen intervention; and
- the use of data systems and decision-making rules that minimize children’s exposure to less-than-optimal interventions.
6) Use of Evidence-based Strategies: LEAP is unique in that we utilize a variety of science-based intervention approaches, including: a) peer-mediated interventions; b) errorless learning; c) time-delay; d) incidental teaching; e) pivotal response training; f) picture exchange communication system (PECS) (Frost & Bondy, 1994); and g) positive behavior support. We believe the enormous heterogeneity of ASD precludes the use of one or a few instructional approaches.
7) Parent Skill Training: Skill training for families focuses on providing adult family members with the behavioral teaching strategies sufficient for them to experience less stress and more pleasure in daily routines such as meals, bedtime, dressing, and community outings. All LEAP sites develop a method for sharing information on key behavioral strategies with parents or care-givers. Programs generally use one, or a combination of, the following strategies to share information, a) group parent training meetings, b) in-home visitation by program personnel, c) self-study modules with teacher follow-up.