Promoting school readiness is a vital strategy to close the learning gaps and reach children's full potential. This systematic review aims to examine the effectiveness of early childhood interventions delivered in educational settings for children with autism and other developmental disabilities aged 3-6 years in improving six developmental outcome domains.
Sensitive searches were conducted in seven international databases and three Chinese regional databases, as well as seven grey literature repositories, for all available studies published in English or Chinese language. All records were double screened. Two bilingual reviewers were involved in extraction and quality appraisal. Effect sizes were synthesised using robust variance estimation.
Twenty-eight studies were included in the statistical analyses. Findings provided tentative evidence of social and communication trainings in improving social and communication skills (d = 1.22, 95% CI [0.68, 1.76]) and language interventions in increasing language abilities (d = 0.55, 95% CI [0.33, 0.76]). Treatment effects varied by diagnosis and context. There was substantial heterogeneity across studies.
We call for intersectional partnerships to promote the inclusion of children with autism and other developmental disabilities in early childhood service and education, as well as more robust research, especially in low- and middle-income countries and involving more types of developmental disabilities.
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