Evidence Based Treatments for Autism

Evidence-based Practices in Interventions and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders   Odom, Collet-Klingenberg, Rogers, and Hatton (2010)

Clinicians and teachers working with children with autism spectrum disorders are required by insurance companies and regional centers to use evidence based practice (EBPs) in their treatments.  Parents are looking for treatment centers that use only EBPs with their clients.  Everyone can agree that any treatment delivered to children with autism should be shown by rigorous research to be effective.  However, to date there is not a mutually agreed upon standard which identifies practices that are evidence-based. 

This leaves researchers, practitioner, and parents asking a few questions.  What are evidence-based practices?  How do we decide which practices are supported by research and which aren’t? 

The purpose of this article was to answer some of these questions and provide a list of practices which are shown by research to be effective for treating children with autism.  The authors defined a practice as individual strategies (e.g., reinforcement, prompting, and visual schedules) that clinicians use to teach specific target skills. If a practice was researched well enough and shown to be effective for treating children with Autism it was included as an EBP.

The authors considered the following practices to be evidence based:

  • Prompting
  • Reinforcement
  • Task analysis and chaining
  • Time delay
  • Computer-aided instruction
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  • Naturalistic Interventions
  • Parent-implemented interventions
  • Peer-mediated instruction/interventions (PMII)
  • Picture Exchange Communication system (PECS)
  • Pivotal response Teaching (PRT)
  • Functional behavior assessment (FBA)
  • Stimulus control/ Environmental modifications
  • Response interruption/ redirection
  • Functional communication training (FCT)
  • Extinction
  • Differential reinforcement of alternative, incompatible, other or lower levels of behavior (DR-A/I/O/L)
  • Self-management
  • Social narratives
  • Social skills training groups
  • Structured work systems
  • Video modeling
  • Visual supports
  • VOCA/Speech Generating Devices (SGD) or AAC Devices

The authors note that EBP’s must be implemented strategically to be valuable.  In other words, the EBP one chooses to use should be based on the individual goals of the child with ASD.  EBPs should be utilized carefully and in the manner in which it was designed to be used.

New practices are being studied, and research will likely discover new EBPs.  As ACT becomes aware of new practices that research shows to be effective, we will bring that information to our readers.

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