Pre-School Interventions and Autism


Boy playing with a train setThe term pre-school educational intervention is very wide ranging and means different things to different people.

In practice it tends to mean any intervention which is aimed at pre-school children (between the ages of 2 and 5) and which is delivered in an educational setting (such as a nursery)  or which aims to educate, that is, teach or develop, preschool children.

So some preschool interventions, such as portage, are aimed at pre-school children and their parents but actually take place in the family home. 


Some pre-school interventions (such as some forms of early intensive behavioural intervention) have some supporting research evidence. Less evidence exists for the other interventions in this section

Risks and safety

No risks are known for most pre-chool interventions.

Specific Pre-School Interventions

Early Intensive Behavioural Interventions

There is a a range of early intensive behavioural interventions such as the UCLA YAP model: an intervention based on the idea that autistic children struggle to understand and to communicate with other people, and react to such frustrations with tantrums and other challenging behaviours.The therapy team therefore constructs a teaching environment that is designed to maximise the child's success and minimise failure.

More information

Please see 

Early Start Denver Model

The Early Start Denver Model aims to optimise relationships in the family and teach new, adaptive skills that allow children greater control, autonomy, competence, and personal satisfaction within their social experiences. A multi-disciplinary treatment group devises a personalised treatment plan for each child, which is delivered in the home and elsewhere by the parents of the child.

More information

Please see Publications on the Early Start Denver Model

Hanen Programs

The Hanen Programs are parent education prgrammes for parents of autistic children run by the Hanen Centre in Ontario, Canada but which are also available in other countries. The programmes teach parents to detect and respond appropriately to the individual child's attempts to communicate however subtle, strange or even challenging these attempts may appear.

More information

Please see Publications on the Hanen Programs

LEAP (an acronym for Learning Experiences - An Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Parents)

LEAP is an educational programme in which small groups of autistic children are taught alongside a small number of typically developing children. LEAP is based on the idea that autistic children will learn better in integrated settings alongside their typically developing peers provided that those peers have been taught how to help them.

More information

Please see 

TEACCH- preschool child programme

The TEACCH- preschool child programme is an approach is based on understanding the culture of autism (the characteristic patterns of thinking and behaviour seen in individuals with autism). It is also based around developing an individualised person (and family)-centred plan for each client or student, rather than using a standard curriculum

More information

Please see 

Other Programmes

Please see

  • Behavioural Interventions - for more information on a wide range of programmes based on applied behaviour analysis which are sometimes used with preschool children.
  • Parent Training and Support Programmes  - for more information on the following programmes: Barnardo’s Cygnet programme, NAS EarlyBird programmes, and Portage. 
  • Relationship-based interventions - for more information on the following programmes: the DIR method, the Relationship Development Intervention and the Son-Rise Program.

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27 May 2022