Naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention is an emerging class of interventions for young children with autism spectrum disorder. The present article is a meta-analysis of outcomes of group-design studies ( n = 27) testing interventions using naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention strategies.
Small, significant positive effects of naturalistic developmental behavioral intervention were found for expressive language ( g = 0.32), reduction in symptoms of autism spectrum disorder ( g = -0.38), and play skills ( g = 0.23). Larger effects were found for social engagement ( g = 0.65) and overall cognitive development ( g = 0.48).
A marginal effect was found for joint attention ( g = 0.14) and receptive language ( g = 0.28). For joint attention, improvement was moderated by hours of professional involvement. Evidence of publication and reporting bias was present for language outcomes.
This meta-analysis grows the evidence base for naturalistic developmental behavioral interventions, particularly in the key areas of social engagement and cognition.
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