LEAP (an acronym for Learning Experiences - An Alternative Program for Preschoolers and Parents) is a comprehensive, multi-component, educational programme in which small groups of children on the autism spectrum are taught alongside a small number of typically developing children.
LEAP is based on the idea that children on the autism spectrum will learn better in integrated settings alongside their typically developing peers provided that those peers have been taught how to help them.
LEAP aims to help children to reach their full potential so they are best able to benefit from mainstream education. The LEAP curriculum is designed to concentrate on the development of functional skills, independent play, social interaction, pre-academics, language skills and adaptive behaviour.
Each child on the autism spectrum has an individually designed educational plan, which includes the mainstream curriculum, as well as specific, personalised objectives.
There is a very small amount of high quality research evidence (two large, multi-site controlled trials) and a small amount of low quality research (six single-case design studies with three or more participants) into the use of LEAP for pre-school children on the autism spectrum.
This research suggests that LEAP may be an effective way to improve the social communication skills of some pre-school children on the autism spectrum.
There is insufficient evidence to determine if LEAP provides any benefits in other areas (such as a reduction in repetitive and restricted behaviours, interests and activities) to pre-school children on the autism spectrum.
There could be dangers if LEAP is applied without following the relatively strict guidance, specifically if it is confused with putting children into mainstream schools with little or no support.
There is a need for more research into LEAP which uses scientifically robust, experimental methodologies. That research should investigate whether LEAP is more or less effective than other comprehensive, multi-component, educational interventions (such as TEACCH), and which components of LEAP, if any, are more likely to benefit specific individuals on the autism spectrum.
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions