Background: The Intensive, Interactive, and Individual (3i) intervention approach aims to decrease the severity of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using intensive developmental play therapy (3i). We performed a retrospective study of 90 children who were enrolled for 2 years in the 3i approach to assess changes and predictors of changes in ASD severity at follow-up (FU). Methods: The ASD severity of all patients (N = 119) who began 3i intervention between 2013 and 2018 was systematically measured using the childhood autism rating scale (CARS) and autism diagnosis interview-revised (ADI-R). Among them, 90 patients (mean age 5.6 ± 3.7 years) had a second assessment at the 2 year FU. CARS and ADI-R scores after 2 years of 3i intervention were compared to baseline scores using paired student’s t-tests. We used multiple linear regression models to assess the weight of baseline variables (e.g., age, oral language, sex, treatment intensity) on changes at the 2 year FU. Results: Mean CARS and ADI-R subscores (interaction, communication, repetitive behaviour) decreased significantly by 20, 41, 27.5 and 25%, respectively (effect sizes: d > 0.8). Moreover, 55 and 46.7% of participants switched to a lower category of ASD severity based on the CARS scale and ADI-R interview, respectively. Multiple linear models showed that (i) a higher treatment intensity (more than 30 h per week) was significantly associated with a greater decrease (improvement) in the ADI-R interaction score; (ii) patients categorized as verbal subjects at baseline were associated with a better outcome, as ascertained by the CARS, ADI-R interaction and ADI-R communication scores; and (iii) older patients were significantly associated with a greater decrease in the ADI-R interaction score. However, we found no impact of sex, severity of ASD or comorbidities at baseline. Conclusion: This study performed on 90 children suggests that 3i therapy may allow for a significant reduction in ASD severity with improvements in interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours. A study using a control group is required to assess the efficacy of 3i play therapy compared to other interventions.
- 3i method
- Developmental intervention