Technical review of published research on applied behaviour analysis interventions for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Publication Details

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

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Results 10. Review of Maintenance of Effects after Conclusion of Intervention

Data on the maintenance of effects after the conclusion of the intervention was collected in 71 of the 169 (42%) items in the New Zealand database. Of these, 23 (32%) were excluded from the following review as they obtained composite SMRS scores of < 2.0. The maintenance of effect from 48 items is, therefore, reviewed in this section.  

Maintenance was reported to be strong for 75% (36/48) of main effects, i.e., more than two thirds of the treatment effects detected were maintained over time. Interventions demonstrating maintenance addressed the full range of the eleven NSP behaviour target categories, with 25% (9/36) addressing problem behaviours. Communication was the target category for 17% (6/36) of items with strong support of maintenance, and 14% (5/36) in academic and interpersonal categories. A wide range of interventions were utilised including, though not limited to, various prompting strategies, non-contingent reinforcement, task analyses, video modelling and multi-component packages.

Limited support for maintenance of treatment was recorded for 21% (10/48) of items. Limited support indicates that data indicating a skill had been maintained was reported for between half and two-thirds of the participants of the study. The NSP target category studied was limited to six areas (interpersonal, three studies; learning readiness, personal responsibility, two studies each; communication, restrictive and repetitive patterns of behaviour, independent play and leisure, one study each). The interventions used were video modelling, social stories, reciprocal imitation training and differential reinforcement.

No support for maintenance of treatment was observed in 4% (2/48) of the reviewed items. These studies targeted behaviours in the independent play and leisure, and problem behaviour categories, with the interventions being social stories and differential reinforcement respectively.

In summary, maintenance of treatment following conclusion of the intervention was reported in 42% of studies. Where maintenance data was collected and reported it was most often (on 75% of occasions) shown that the treatment effect was maintained and reported for the majority of participants. Maintenance of treatment effect occurred in all NSP behaviour categories with a wide range of intervention procedures. Problem behaviour, communication, academic skills and interpersonal skills were well represented in the targeted behaviours that demonstrated maintenance. Interventions with limited support of maintenance of effect included video modelling, social stories, reciprocal imitation training, and differential reinforcement.