For Parents

For Parents

Research Round-Up

This week we summarize The National Clearinghouse’s 2020 report on evidence-based practices for children, youth, and young adults with autism.

Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism

There are many treatments touted as effectively treating autism by professionals and parents alike; however, there is a dearth of evidence to support the effectiveness, and even safety, of many autism interventions. Thus, guidelines for effective interventions are essential to support the development of individuals with autism. In this comprehensive review, a multidisciplinary team of researchers, graduate students, and clinicians reviewed the evidence behind autism interventions for individuals between 0-22 years old, reviewing over 900 articles in the process. This study is an update of a previous review of the autism literature, adding articles published between 2012-2017 to a previous review of articles from 1990-2011. Given that the review is over 100 pages long, we summarized some significant findings below.

  • Evidence-based interventions:
    • 28 interventions and strategies were considered evidence-based
    • Specific strategies considered effective include: direct instruction, modeling, prompting, reinforcing, redirection, time delay, video modeling, and visual supports
    • Interventions considered effective include: augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), parent-implemented intervention, peer-based instruction and intervention, social narratives (e.g., Social Stories), sensory integration, naturalistic interventions (e.g., JASPER, Pivotal Response Training, and Milieu Teaching), exercise, Discrete Trial Training, and social skills training
  • Participants:
    • Approximately 40% of studies reported participants with co-occurring conditions, most commonly being intellectual disability (20.8%).
    • The majority of studies included participants between the ages of 3-12 years old, but there’s been an increase in studies for those over 12 years old between 2012-2017
    • Nearly 70% of articles did not report the race, ethnicity, or nationality of their participants. Of the studies that did report on these demographics, 60% of participants were White.
    • Approximately 16% of participants were female
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Communication, social skills, and challenging behaviors were the three most common targets of intervention
    • Approximately 60% of studies had researchers implementing the intervention
  • Takeaways:
    • Research including female and non-White participants may be needed to generalize results
    • Studying these interventions as implemented by service providers, rather than research staff, may help clarify their effectiveness in real-world settings
    • This review excluded interventions involving “specialized equipment” (e.g., animal therapy), medical personnel (e.g., neurofeedback or chelation therapy), or medication/nutritional supplements. Previous research has determined that many of these interventions may not be effective, but more updated reviews about these treatments may be warranted.