Technical review of published research on applied behaviour analysis interventions for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder
New Zealand Ministries of Education and of Health requested a technical review of the evidence base on the effectiveness of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Released on Education Counts: April 2010
Author(s): Oliver Mudford, Neville Blampied, Katrina Phillips, Dave Harper, Mary Foster, John Church, Maree Hunt, Jane Prochnow, Dennis Rose, Angela Arnold-Saritepe, Heather Peters, Celia Lie, Katrina Jeffrey, Eric Messick, Catherine Sumpter, James McEwan and Susan Wilczynski (2009), Auckland UniServices Limited.
Date Published: 15 January 2009 - Revised 16 January 2009
This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box). For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.
Results 11. Evidence for Effects of Behaviour Analytic Methods across Ministry of Education Target Behaviour Classifications
This section summarises the evidence concerning behaviour analytic methods for changing behaviours and teaching new skills.
All of the various behaviour analytic intervention types were found to have some measure of scientific support for their effectiveness. The NSP review classifies these methods into 16 intervention types (Table 2) and reports strong scientific evidence for nine and emerging evidence for the remaining seven of these.
It should be noted that although Reductive Packages were classified as having emerging support it is becoming less and less frequent to find such strategies used alone. If they are used then other strategies that promote positive behaviour change would normally be used alongside them. Thus “emerging” might not be the appropriate term to use for these.
The intervention types included in the review cover a wide breadth of behaviour analytic methodology.To illustrate at least some of the behavioural methods a practitioner should know about and should be able to use in order to adopt evidence-based practice, the New Zealand data were examined in more detail.
Interventions with a score or of 2 or more on the SMRS were selected and sorted according to the degree of support for that intervention (strong support for beneficial effects, limited support, unknown, does not support). The reviewers’ descriptions of the procedures involved for those with strong support for beneficial effects were used to summarise the interventions and these are given in Table 6 below. This table illustrates the range of procedures found to be supported in this sub-set of the reviewed studies.
Table 6 shows that a wide range of behaviour analytic procedures needs to be used for evidence-base practice. It should be noted that these summary descriptions do not include mention of every behavioural principle involved in the interventions. For example, reinforcers of some type (e.g., social, tangible, tokens, and/or access to activities) are an integral part of teaching new skills and helping behaviour change but are not always listed in the summary description of the procedure. Also motivating (or establishing) operations are an important aspect of using reinforcers effectively but are also not mentioned in the summary descriptions.
Table 6 shows that effective practice requires the use of appropriate combinations of procedures and that one “intervention” frequently involves the combination of several different procedures. For example, antecedent procedures, such as the use of physical or video prompts, often form only part of an intervention and so are combined with other maintenance procedures and, when they are used, they are also normally combined with some form of reinforcement and often with a fading procedure to be maximally effective.
|Interventions with a SMRS score of 2 and above from the subset of reviews carried out in NZ|
|Examples with Strong Support for beneficial effects|
| Communication training e.g., |
| Differential reinforcement (DR), e.g., |
|Differential observing responses to increase accuracy on Matching to Sample (MTS) task with words|
| Extinction e.g., |
|Function based intervention package including replacement behaviour training (using picture communication), response modification and environment change with verbal and physical prompts|
|Functional Communication Training using scripts and response cost|
| Imitation, e.g., |
|Learn units plus multiple example instruction|
| Naturalistic Teaching Strategies, e.g., |
| Non-contingent reinforcement (NCR), e.g., |
| Prompts, e.g., |
| Reductive procedures, e.g., |
|Reinforcement plus non-contingent access to preferred stimuli and with no consequences for target behaviour [followed by fading in interruptions (do requests)]|
| Schedules, e.g., |
| Scripts, e.g., |
| Self management, e.g., |
| Stimulus control, e.g., |
|Task analysis plus backward chaining plus prompting and prompt fading plus reinforcement|
| Teaching communication e.g., |
|Teaching social-behaviour to replace problem behaviours|
|Using peers as an establishing (motivating) operation|
| Video modelling, e.g., |
| Video rehearsal, e.g., |
These examples of skills are, to a large extent, a subset of the general skills that behaviour analytic practitioners (e.g., teachers, carers) need for increasing or decreasing behaviours effectively if evidence-based practices are to be adopted. A fuller range of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) would be expected of those training and supervising practitioners. See Task List for Board Certified Behaviour Analysts Working with Persons with Autism – 3rd ed. (2005). Specialist extra KSAs recommended for behaviour analytic practitioners specialising with ASD populations can be found on the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board website.
Where to find out more
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