This evidence base update examines the level of empirical support for interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) younger than 5 years old. It focuses on research published since a previous review in this journal (Rogers & Vismara, 2008 ).
We identified psychological or behavioral interventions that had been manualized and evaluated in either (a) experimental or quasi-experimental group studies or (b) systematic reviews of single-subject studies. We extracted data from all studies that met these criteria and were published after the previous review. Interventions were categorized across two dimensions.
First, primary theoretical principles included applied behavior analysis (ABA), developmental social-pragmatic (DSP), or both. Second, practice elements included scope (comprehensive or focused), modality (individual intervention with the child, parent training, or classrooms), and intervention targets (e.g., spoken language or alternative and augmentative communication).
We classified two interventions as well-established (individual, comprehensive ABA and teacher-implemented, focused ABA + DSP), 3 as probably efficacious (individual, focused ABA for augmentative and alternative communication; individual, focused ABA + DSP; and focused DSP parent training), and 5 as possibly efficacious (individual, comprehensive ABA + DSP; comprehensive ABA classrooms; focused ABA for spoken communication; focused ABA parent training; and teacher-implemented, focused DSP). The evidence base for ASD interventions has grown substantially since 2008.
An increasing number of interventions have some empirical support; others are emerging as potentially efficacious. Priorities for future research include improving outcome measures, developing interventions for understudied ASD symptoms (e.g., repetitive behaviors), pinpointing mechanisms of action in interventions, and adapting interventions for implementation with fidelity by community providers.
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