Cluster randomized trial of the classroom SCERTS intervention for elementary students with autism spectrum disorder

OBJECTIVE: This cluster randomized trial (CRT) evaluated the efficacy of the Classroom Social, Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Support (SCERTS) Intervention (CSI) compared with usual school-based education with autism training modules (ATM).

METHOD: Sixty schools with 197 students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 129 classrooms were randomly assigned to CSI or ATM. Mean student age was 6.79 years (SD 1.05) and 81.2% were male. CSI teachers were trained on the model and provided coaching throughout the school year to assist with implementation. A CRT, with students nested within general and special education classrooms nested within schools, was used to evaluate student outcomes.

RESULTS: The CSI group showed significantly better outcomes than the ATM group on observed measures of classroom active engagement with respect to social interaction. The CSI group also had significantly better outcomes on measures of adaptive communication, social skills, and executive functioning with Cohen’s d effect sizes ranging from 0.31 to 0.45.

CONCLUSION: These findings support the preliminary efficacy of CSI, a classroom-based, teacher-implemented intervention for improving active engagement, adaptive communication, social skills, executive functioning, and problem behavior within a heterogeneous sample of students with ASD. This makes a significant contribution to the literature by demonstrating efficacy of a classroom-based teacher-implemented intervention with a heterogeneous group of students with ASD using both observed and reported measures. (PsycINFO Database Record



Lindee Morgan, Jessica L Hooker, Nicole Sparapani, Vanessa P Reinhardt, Chris Schatschneider, Amy M Wetherby