Developmental interventions are built upon constructivist theories of learning (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969). These constructivist theories consider that the learner acquires knowledge on the basis of her or his perceptions of reality and experience: we learn by constructing knowledge and reconstructing our perceptions to adapt them to our own contexts. These constructivist theories thus postulate that learners acquire knowledge not by passively absorbing it, but by actively putting it into perspective with their experiences and representations (Elliott et al., 2000). Therefore, learning is intrinsically relative to a learner’s stage of cognitive development.
In this constructivist perspective, several authors emphasize the role of social interactions in the development (e.g., Vygostsky, 1978). In line with this perspective, developmental interventions aim to support children acquire knowledge and skills through interactions with caregivers or professionals. Developmental interventions seek to elicit skills in children with ASD that should be present but have not been spontaneously acquired. The targeted skills are chosen based on the developmental stage of the child. These skills are critical for learning and are generally related to interacting with others (e.g., imitiation skills, joint attention skills, etc...).
Two core features of the developmental interventions are (Sandbank et al., 2020):
In the dabatase, two meta-analyses explored the efficacy of overall developemental interventions. Thes meta-analyses include clinical trials conducted among very young children, for which caregivers are often the primary providers of the intervention. One of these meta-analyses focused on the 'DIR/Floortime' program, which is a proeminent example of developmental interventions.