Research & Evidence

The PLAY Project is excited to announce that our 3-year NIMH-funded randomized, controlled trial has yielded positive and statistically significant results! For more information about this study, please see the grant summary below.  We are in the process of publishing the results and will conduct a formal press release upon publication. To hear Dr. Solomon discuss the details of this study, please listen to his webinar: Session 4 – The PLAY Project: Research Overview.

The PLAY Project Intervention for Autism
2009 – 2012 NIMH Grant Program Summary

A growing number of children (1 in 88) with autism spectrum disorders ASD need intensive intervention (25 hours/week, 1:1 or 1:2 professional to pupil ratio), which most states do not provide because a) there is a national shortage of trained personnel, b) such interventions are very expensive, and c) an evidence-based, cost-effective model has not yet been developed for national dissemination. As a result, there is a very large unmet national need for autism services.

The PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) Project Home Consultation Program, under the direction of developmental and behavioral pediatrician Richard Solomon MD, is an innovative train-the-trainer solution that could potentially address this national need.

Since publication of the pilot study in 2007*, PLAY was awarded a $1.8 million 3 year NIH SBIR (Small Business Innovations Research) grant in 2009 to implement a randomized, multi-site, blinded, controlled effectiveness study. This study compared children in the control group who received Community Standard Services (CSS)—typically special education pre-school—to children in the intervention group who received CSS plus PLAY Home Consulting. The Home Consultation Program is a once a month (3 hour), home-based, parent training program that uses certified masters level pediatric professionals (SLP, OT, MSW MEd., etc) as coaches. PLAY operationalizes Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime framework into a practical, fully manualized approach. Parents are supported to PLAY for a total of two hours per day in ways that are sensitive, responsive, and effective in engaging their hard to engage young children (ages 18 months to 6 years old) with ASD.

With Easter Seals National as our clinical partner and and Michigan State University (Hiram Fitzgerald PhD and Laurie VanEgren PhD) as our evaluation partner, The PLAY Project NIH Grant successfully recruited 112, 3-5 year old children with ASD at 5 Easter Seals sites. Each year a cohort of 30 families received monthly 3-hour PLAY Project home visits for 12 months. Thus about 55 intervention families and 55 control families were recruited.

Data analysis from both cohorts is being finalized to confirm that children in the PLAY intervention group improve when compared to the control group. Our research is focused on whether PLAY children improve in autism severity, language, and interaction; and whether parents learn to PLAY better. We are also hoping to show that PLAY Home Consultants show fidelity to the PLAY model.

With positive results, The PLAY Project would show promise as a replicable developmental model of autism intervention using an efficient train-the-trainer model at relatively low cost to parents and society that can be broadly and quickly disseminated to serve a growing, unmet national need.

* Solomon R, Necheles J, Ferch C, Bruckman D, (2007) Pilot study of a parent training program for young children with autism: The PLAY Project Home Consultation program. Autism Vol 11(3) 205-224.