What is Evidence Based Practice?
You might have heard the term thrown around, but what does it really mean?
Evidence based practice (EBP) is when the interventionist, clinician, therapist, etc. make decisions based on the best available scientific evidence, professional expertise across disciplines, and understanding of the child’s unique situation.
Evidence Based Practice is critical when deciding what works for which children and in what contexts – which approaches or interventions might be appropriate for a specific individual. Because of this, it is important to understand that, within various interventions, “one size does not fit all.”
How does EBP help children with ASD and their families?
Since one size does not fit all, it is important to understand that a single intervention cannot be expected to work for all children with ASD, because each child has a unique set of preferences, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and so on.
Regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), scientific research, professional expertise and judgment are all important when taking into consideration what interventions will work best for a child and his or her family. Not only are the characteristics of the current research and clinician’s expertise important, but equally important in choosing an intervention strategy is thinking about the strengths, concerns, and preferences of the child with ASD and his or her support, for example, family and professional team.
Parents are a crucial partner in deciding what intervention is best for a child, because they know their children’s strengths, preferences, and weaknesses much better than anyone. This is already a major factor in determining the best intervention for an individual child, but to take it one step farther, parents can learn about the research that is out there on interventions for children with ASD. This way, when it comes time for parents to consult with therapists about treatment, not only are they already the expert on their child and family situation, but they also have an understanding about what makes good research, and they can come prepared to ask the therapist questions about the existing research on the intervention.
So, what characterizes clinically relevant and meaningful intervention research?
– Research attempting to better understand the unique, effective elements of an intervention; Examples include how frequent a child receives intervention (a child might get fussy very quickly, therefore, it might be a good idea to spread out intervention sessions) and age of the child at intervention (at different ages, children have varied skills and interests, therefore, an intervention approach for a smaller child will not be the same as one for an older child)
– Research investigating which elements to apply (such as the elements explained above), how long to wait for a response to intervention, and then when to change course of an intervention (because one treatment does not work for all children with ASD, it is possible that after a specific time, that an intervention approach might be changed)
– Larger sample sizes. This means that the research on the intervention was not only done on one child. As we have discussed, each child is unique, and just because an intervention works for one child, does not mean it will work for another. So, the more children that participated in the intervention study, the more unique cases were taken into consideration, and if it seems to work for 100 children with autism, it is much safer to think it could help any child with autism.
– Flexible application of an approach – This means intervention strategies that can be changed based on the child’s progress. If after a set time, a child does not engage well with a particular strategy, it can be modified by targeting more individualized goals such as behavior and play.
Through these ways, clinically relevant and meaningful research will continue to build towards developing more personalized and effective interventions in ASD. The results will expand our knowledge and move us away from a misinformed belief that there is only one “evidence-based intervention” in ASD.
Kasari, Connie, and Tristram Smith. “Forest for the Trees: Evidence-Based Practices in ASD.” Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice 23.3 (2016): 260-64. Web.