LEAP Preschool

Note: The LEAP Preschool program was not responsive to the CEBC's inquiry. The following information was obtained from publicly available sources.

About This Program

Target Population: Children with and without disabilities within an inclusive early childhood environment

Program Overview

LEAP Preschool (also known as Learning Experiences: An Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Parents [LEAP]) is designed to be both a behaviorally and developmentally appropriate approach for teaching children with and without disabilities within an inclusive early childhood environment. Learning activities are selected based upon the needs, interests, and developmental levels of individual children within the classroom. An integrated curriculum approach (i.e., designing learning experiences that promote children’s skill development across multiple domains) is used to provide learning opportunities across all areas of development (e.g., social/emotional, language, adaptive behavior, cognitive, and physical). Curricular activities are selected to encourage children’s learning through active exploration with concrete materials and interactions with other children and adults. Individual children’s progress towards identified goals and objectives are monitored on an ongoing, systematic basis. In addition, assessment of skill acquisition, maintenance, and generalization are conducted as a means of evaluating the effectiveness of instructional strategies.

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for LEAP Preschool.

Manuals and Training

Publicly available information indicates there is a manual that describes how to deliver this program, and there is some training available for this program.
See contact info below.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Strain, P. S., & Bovey, E. H. (2011). Randomized, controlled trial of the LEAP model of early intervention for young children with autism spectrum disorders. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 31(3), 133–154. https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121411408740 

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 524 (56 preschool classrooms)

Population:

  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were individuals who met criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and teachers.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to provide a description of an approach to individualize group instruction and an evaluation of preacademic/academic program effects for normally developing and autistic-like children. Out of the participating classrooms, 23 inclusive preschool classrooms (n=123 teachers; n=117 children) were randomly assigned to receive 2 years of training and coaching to fidelity in the LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Their Parents) preschool model (now called LEAP Preschool), and 28 inclusive classes (n=107 teachers; n=177 children) were assigned to receive intervention manuals only. Measures utilized include the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, the Preschool Language Scale (4th ed.; PLS-4), the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), and a social validity measure. Results indicate that after 2 years, experimental class (fully implemented LEAP) children were found to have made significantly greater improvement than their comparison cohorts on measures of cognitive, language, social, and problem behavior, and autism symptoms. Behavior at entry did not predict outcome nor did family socioeconomic status. The fidelity with which teachers implemented LEAP strategies did predict outcomes. Finally, social validity measurement showed that procedures and outcomes were favorably viewed by fully implemented LEAP class teachers. Limitations include compromises in child assessment methods by not using direct observational measures of child behavior related to autism symptoms, communication skills, and social behaviors, conducting the randomized controlled trial (RCT) in “authentic” settings also imposed limitations on the child participants and related diagnostic information, specifically, did not have independent, confirmatory diagnoses of autism. 

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Boyd, B. A., Hume, K., McBee, M. T., Alessandri, M., Gutierrez, A., Johnson, L., Sperry, L., & Odom, S. L. (2014). Comparative efficacy of LEAP, TEACCH, and non-model-specific special education programs for preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(2), 366–380. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-013-1877-9

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 273 (75 teachers and198 children)

Population:

  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Teachers: 72 White and 3 Black; Children: 92 White, 69 Hispanic, 23 Black, 10 Asian, and 4 Not specified
  • Gender — Teachers: 74 Female and 1 Male; Children: 165 Male and 33 Female
  • Status — Participants were preschool teachers and individuals who met criteria for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Location/Institution: Florida, Colorado, and Minnesota

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to compare LEAP (Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Their Parents) [now called LEAP Preschool] (n = 22) and TEACCH (n = 25) classrooms to each other and a control condition (n = 28), in which teachers in high quality special education programs used non-model-specific practices. Measures utilized include the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS); the Childhood Autism Rating Scale; the Leiter International Performance Scale-Revised; the Mullen Scales of Early Learning; the Pictorial Infant Communication Scales; the Preschool Language Scales, 4th Edition; the Social Responsiveness Scale; Repetitive Behavior Scales-Revised; the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, Survey Edition; and the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ). Results indicate that across conditions, children’s performances improved over time. Limitations include the study may not have been sufficiently powered to detect differences between three active treatment conditions, crossover of classroom practices, and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Strain, P. S. (2017). Four-year follow-up of children in the LEAP randomized trial: Some planned and accidental findings. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 37(2), 121–126. https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121417711531

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 524 (56 preschool classrooms)

Population:

  • Age — Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Not specified
  • Status — Participants were individuals who met criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study utilizes the same population as Strain et al. (2011). This article reports on a 4-year follow-up study from the Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Their Parents (LEAP) [now called LEAP Preschool] randomized trial of early intervention for young children with autism. Out of the participating classrooms, 23 inclusive preschool classrooms (n= 123 teachers; n=117 children) were randomly assigned to receive 2 years of training and coaching to fidelity in the LEAP preschool model, and 28 inclusive classes (n=107 teachers; n=177 children) were assigned to receive intervention manuals only. Measures utilized include the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), the Mullen Scales of Early Learning, the Preschool Language Scale (4th ed.; PLS-4), the Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), and a social validity measure. Results indicate that participants from LEAP classes were marginally superior to comparison class children on elementary school outcomes specific to communication, adaptive behavior, social, academic, and cognitive skills. Statistically significant group differences were noted in cognitive development and social skills. However, when placement was treated as an independent variable, very large effects were seen across all outcome measures, including autism symptoms, for children who were enrolled in inclusive settings. Data from adult family members confirmed important changes in perceived quality of life. Limitations include need replication with more functional, observational measures of children behaving in authentic settings; need replication with better measures of curricular variables and follow-up dosage of instruction; need replication with direct observational measures of teacher–child interaction; and need replication across diverse groups of children.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Hume, K., Sam, A., Mokrova, I., Reszka, S., & Boyd, B. A. (2019). Facilitating social interactions with peers in specialized early childhood settings for young children with ASD. School Psychology Review, 48(2), 123–132. https://doi.org/10.17105/SPR-2017-0134.V48-2

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 75 (22 teachers, 53 students)

Population:

  • Age — Teachers: Not specified; Children: 2.9–5.11 years (Mean=3.93 years)
  • Race/Ethnicity — Teachers: 95.5% White and 4.5% Black; Children: 84.6% White, 7.7% Black, 3.8% Asian, and 3.8% multiracial
  • Gender — Teachers: 1 Male; Children: 79% Male
  • Status — Participants were teachers and students who met criteria for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Location/Institution: Florida, Colorado, and Minnesota

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study utilizes the subsample from Boyd et al. (2014). The current study used data from 23 Learning Experiences and Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Their Parents (LEAP) [now called LEAP Preschool] classrooms for the first time point only. The overall purpose of this study was to examine the pattern of social interactions for children with ASD as well as associated classroom and adult behavior variables for children who received LEAP. Of the participating classrooms, 23 inclusive preschool classrooms (n=123 teachers; n=117 children) were randomly assigned to receive 2 years of training and coaching to fidelity in the LEAP preschool model, and 28 inclusive classes (n=107 teachers; n=177 children) were assigned to receive intervention manuals only. Measures utilized include the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Code for Active Student Participation and Engagement–Revised (CASPER III). Results indicate that social interaction is most likely to occur when an adult is not present, during small group activities, pretend play, and large motor activities. Limitations include videotapes were used to code behavior and environmental variables; use of momentary-time sampling methods to collect data on social behaviors, which is already a low-incidence behavior for learners with ASD; and sample only included high quality LEAP classrooms; thus, results are not generalizable to other types of inclusive programs serving preschoolers with ASD; and lack of follow-up.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

No reference materials are currently available for LEAP Preschool.

Contact Information

Ted Bovey
Website: morgridge.du.edu/pele-center/leap
Email:
Phone: (303) 916-1716

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: July 2021

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: July 2021