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National Autism Center Releases List of Evidence-Based Interventions

April 20, 2015

Researchers at the National Autism Center at May Institute released the results of the largest systematic review to date of interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their findings identify 14 “Established Interventions” for children and adolescents that have the most research support, produce beneficial outcomes, and are known to be effective, and one Established Intervention for adults on the autism spectrum.
“The National Standards Project is an ongoing effort designed to give educators, families, practitioners, and organizations the information and resources they need to make informed choices about effective interventions that will offer individuals with ASD the greatest hope for their futures,” said Hanna C. Rue, Ph.D., BCBA-D. Dr. Rue serves as Executive Director of the National Autism Center, May Institute’s Center for the Promotion of Evidence-based Practice.
Leading the way in the field of adult intervention, this latest iteration of the National Standards Project also included an analysis of intervention outcome studies for adults (ages 22 and older) that have never been systematically evaluated before now.
The one intervention determined to be effective for adults, and nearly all of those classified as effective for children and adolescents, are behaviorally based, meaning they are grounded in the methodologies of applied behavior analysis, behavioral psychology, and positive behavior support. In spite of the burgeoning population of adults with ASD, there is little empirical research to guide intervention for this population. The overwhelming majority of research studies to date focus on interventions for children and adolescents.
The following interventions were identified as falling into the “Established” level of evidence and have the most research support, produce beneficial outcomes, and are known to be effective.

  • Behavioral Interventions
  • Cognitive Behavioral Intervention Package
  • Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment for Young Children
  • Language Training (Production)
  • Modeling
  • Natural Teaching Strategies
  • Parent Training
  • Peer Training Package
  • Pivotal Response Training
  • Schedules
  • Scripting
  • Self-Management
  • Social Skills Package
  • Story-based Intervention

“Because of the dearth of research on adult interventions, only 27 studies focused on adults with ASD met our inclusion criteria,” said Dr. Rue. “Although we are pleased to be able to identify one Established Intervention, these results draw attention to the dire need for further research in this area.
“Children with autism grow up to be adults with autism; they will require effective interventions throughout their lifetimes to ensure they reach and maintain their maximum potential,” Dr. Rue added.
The National Standards Project is the only systematic review of ASD interventions for individuals across the lifespan based on behavioral and educational studies. Through a rigorous process utilizing tools and strategies designed and vetted by a team of national experts, the Project’s goal was to analyze the research that was conducted and the impact on participants, and to determine the strength and scientific rigor of that research. The results will help to inform decisions about interventions, or treatments, for ASD.
The report released today, Findings and Conclusions: National Standards Project, Phase 2, updated the Center’s first summary of the ASD intervention literature for children and youth under age 22. Phase 1 of the project was published in 2009. The combined the results of Phases 1 and 2 have produced the largest compilation of studies ever reviewed.
Nationally recognized experts in autism, as well as other leaders representing diverse fields of study, were involved in both phases of the National Standards Project and guided the process of evaluation. Dozens of article reviewers analyzed 1,165 studies related to interventions for ASD throughout both phases of the project. The interventions were subsequently categorized as 1) Established, and producing beneficial outcomes known to be effective; 2) Emerging, with some evidence of effectiveness, but still requiring more research, and 3) Unestablished, and having little or no evidence of effectiveness.
This new report identifies three interventions for individuals under age 22 that were identified as Emerging in 2009 and have now garnered enough scientific evidence of effectiveness to be moved into the Established category.
During the past five years, the National Autism Center has disseminated the results of the first phase of the National Standards Project to hundreds of thousands of individuals throughout the country and around the world through the publication of the National Standards Report.

The new report is available for free download at: https://www.nationalautismcenter.org/national-standards-project/phase-2/