Point OutWords: protocol for a feasibility randomised controlled trial of a motor skills intervention to promote communicative development in non-verbal children with autism.
BACKGROUND: Point OutWords is a caregiver-delivered, iPad-assisted intervention for non-verbal or minimally verbal children with autism. It aims to develop prerequisite skills for communication such as manual and oral motor skills, sequencing, and symbolic representation. This feasibility trial aims to determine the viability of evaluating the clinical efficacy of Point OutWords. METHODOLOGY: We aim to recruit 46 non-verbal or minimally verbal children with autism and their families, approximately 23 per arm. Children in the intervention group will use Point OutWords for half an hour, five times a week, for 8 weeks. Children in the control group will have equal caregiver-led contact time with the iPad using a selection of control apps (e.g. sensory apps, drawing apps). Communication, motor, and daily living skills are assessed at baseline and post-intervention. Parents will keep diaries during the intervention period and will take part in focus groups when the intervention is completed. DISCUSSION: Point OutWords was developed in collaboration with children with autism and their caregivers, to provide an intervention for a subgroup of autism that has been historically underserved. As autism is a heterogeneous condition, it is unlikely that one style of intervention will address all aspects of its symptomatology; the motor skills approach of Point OutWords can complement other therapies that address core autistic symptoms of social cognition and communication more directly. The current feasibility trial can inform the selection of outcome measures and design for future full-scale randomised controlled trials of Point OutWords and of other early interventions in autism. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN, ISRCTN12808402. Prospectively registered on 12 March 2019.