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Evidence Based Practices and the Benefits for Autism

October 10, 2023

Evidence based practices for autism spectrum disorder are a procedure or group of procedures that use a combination of instruction and intervention approaches.

Evidence Based Practices and the Benefits for Autism

Evidence based practices for autism are a procedure or group of procedures that use a combination of instruction and intervention approaches.

For a practice to qualify as evidence based, researchers provide information that shows it provides positive outcomes for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These practices can be very individual, or can be conducted and accomplished in a group.

The quality of the application of these practices is dependent on skills and education of healthcare professionals. How therapists go about facilitating and selecting what practices are appropriate for a person with autism and implementing them accordingly is highly important.

How these practices are selected and used needs to be consistent with the skills, preferences, and variables dependent on the individual. They need to meet the individual’s learning abilities and the skill needs of the person.

Why are evidence based practices important?

Evidence based practices are implemented as a way of ensuring individuals with autism spectrum disorder are receiving services that will help improve their quality of life. These practices are used when developing laws and service providers for these individuals.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act was a law that made special education and related services available to those who qualified. There were some issues and solutions brought up in 2004, so the Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) went through a reauthorization through the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It was discussed that the special education model and services provided were becoming more compliance-based, making sure that all the paperwork was being filed and the curriculum implemented. That didn’t help and cover all the special education needs and there were individuals who were struggling in this system.

The Disabilities Education Improvement Act transitioned into a results based approach that focused more on the individual’s needs. There were evidence based practices used to help each person where they need support.

These changes were enacted and it was stated by Congress that: “Disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.”

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What changes were made?

Due to the focus change and need for more individualized and results based approaches, the  National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder (NPDC) was funded and created.

This was done through the Office of Special Education Programs in the US Department of Education between 2007-2014. This helped shape the future of special education services.

The NPDC collaborated between three different universities. They figured out the best ways of implementing additional evidence based practices in the special education classroom.

This benefitted people from birth to age 22 and was accomplished through education and professional development at state and local levels. This professional development was the necessary step and provided educators with tools to improve this system.

How do evidence based practices benefit autistic people?

The approaches used with evidence based practices help to identify supports young children, young adults, and adults can use. The outcome of these supports and services are independence and quality of life.

These programs can be carefully selected and focus on specific educational and life skills goals, as well as identifying and building on the strengths of the individual. These programs do not necessarily represent all autistic individuals, although there are numerous strengths and skills that can be helped.

The National Standards Project is a primary initiative of the National Autism Center. They address the need for evidence-based practice guidelines for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and provide information that is critical about interventions that have been shown effective for those with ASD.

What are the two classes of intervention approaches?

Comprehensive Treatment Models: these include a set of practices that were created to achieve broad learning and/or developmental impact on the core attributes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  There have been 30 different treatment models identified by Odom Boyd, contrary to the original 10 identified. They were characterized and identified by how they were organized, how they were operated, intensity levels, longevity, and how intense the outcome focus was. 

Focused Intervention Practices: These practices are more individualized and based on a single skill and/or goal of a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These outlined and addressed certain outcomes, like a new behavior, and would cover a short length of time. These focused interventions could be the building blocks and structure for the future of education. These practices could include tactful trial teaching, use of visual supports, prompting, and video modeling.

What are the evidence based practices for students with autism?

There are currently 28 different evidence based practices that can be used for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

  • Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABI): this uses and recognizes events or circumstances before an action or behavior and can either increase the occurrence of the behavior or reduce the challenging behavior
  • Ayres Sensory Integration® (ASI®): these intervention approaches target a person’s ability to respond and react to sensory information from their environment and body using organized and adaptive behavior
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): this teaches how to use a communication system that can be vocal or not with or without assistance
  • Behavioral Momentum Intervention (BMI): The goal of this intervention is to sequence low and more difficult tasks along with higher and easier ones to increase persistence and occurrence of the less desired task
  • Cognitive Behavioral/Instructional Strategies (CBIS): Changes in behavior, social, and educational behaviors are taught through management and control of cognitive processes necessary to carry the behaviors out
  • Differential Reinforcement of Alternative, Incompatible, or Other Behavior (DR): this systematic process increases desirable behavior/absence of undesirable behavior for either demonstrating or not demonstrating the behavior
  • Direct Instruction (DI): this systematic approach can use step-by-step instructions, as well as scripts and lessons that focus on interactions between the student and teacher, through the use of social skills, responsive requesting, and uses systematic error correction to help guide the student to mastery
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT): This approach uses the way a teacher instructs, the child’s response, a planned consequence, and a delay before the next instruction
  • Exercise and Movement (EXM) Interventions: These use physical exertion through specific motor skills, techniques, mindful movement, and have a target of a variety of skills and behaviors to achieve
  • Extinction (EXT): This technique is used to remove reinforcers that were consequences of challenging behaviors, while maintaining the future occurrence of the positive behavior
  • Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA): This is a systematic way to determine underlying functions of a behavior so an effective intervention can be developed
  • Functional Communication Training (FCT): These practices replace a challenging communication function behavior with one that causes the student to appropriately interact with appropriate and communication behaviors and/or skills
  • Modeling (MD) Demonstration: this uses modeling a desired target behavior and can result in the student using the behavior and leads to acquiring the target behavior
  • Music-Mediated Intervention (MMI): This intervention uses songs, melodic intonation, and/or rhythm and is used to help support the student to learn and support different skills and behaviors. This typically includes music therapy and other interventions that help acquire the target skill(s)
  • Naturalistic Intervention (NI): This is a collection of techniques and strategies that are included with life skills training, helping the participant grow and learn their target behavior and implement it.
  • Parent-Implemented Intervention (PII): This intervention is done through a parent and helps promote social skills and decrease challenging behaviors
  • Peer-Based Instruction and Intervention (PBII): This uses peers to teach through social interaction and other individual educational goals. These are organized by teachers or other adults and provides necessary support for these social interactions
  • Prompting (PP): Prompting verbally, with gestures, and/or through physical reminders to provide support to acquire the targeted behavior and/or skill
  • Reinforcement (R): This uses a consequence that is followed by a response or skill that will help acquire the use of the response and/or skills in the future
  • Response Interruption/Redirection (RIR): A prompt, comment, or other distractors are introduced when a negative behavior occurs. This is designed to divert attention away from the negative behavior and helps aid in its reduction
  • Self-Management (SM): The focus of this tool is to teach the student between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors while they monitor and record their behavior, rewarding themselves for positive behavior
  • Social Narratives (SN): These describe social situations and highlight the target behavior or skill offering examples of appropriate responding. This can be accomplished through role playing and step by step instructions that focus on social interactions
  • Social Skills Training (SST): This instruction can be done individually or in a group setting and is designed to instruct individuals on how to have successful interactions with others
  • Task Analysis (TA): This process takes and divides activity or behavior into small and manageable steps to assess and/or teach other skills. This can include other practices like reinforcement, video modeling, or time delay, and helps further the progression of steps
  • Technology-Aided Instruction and Intervention (TAII): Technology is a central feature that can be used to instruct or intervene, and support learning, skill, and behavior support of the individual
  • Time Delay (TD): This process takes and slowly fades out the use of prompting during instructional activities and can also use a brief delay between the initial instruction and any supportive instructions or prompts during the session
  • Video Modeling (VM): This uses a video recording to demonstrate the targeted behavior or skill to assist in the learning and engagement of the desired behavior
  • Visual Supports (VS): These are visual displays that are used to support the student and to keep them engaged in a desired behavior or with the help of additional prompts

What are the three components of evidence based practice?

There are many evidence based practices that are available. They all incorporate and include three essential components that make them dependable.

The three components include the use and integration of the best evidence available, the use of clinical expertise, and how the patient’s outcomes are in relation to client and practice management, as well as the health policy stance on decision making.

The use and implementation of these components are necessary to the improvement of current evidence based practices. Having professionals that acknowledge and stay up-to-date on these practices and their implementation will help with this improvement and any changes that may need to be made.

Can evidence based practices work for you?

There is so much information available to help you make an informed decision based on your needs or the person in your life that has autism spectrum disorder. With the information that has been provided, speaking with a medical professional can help make appropriate decisions and ideas for therapies, education, etc.

Also, knowing the needs and targeted behaviors that an individual may need to work toward will help. These practices are very individual, although there are some that can take place in a group, so knowing individual needs and goals will help determine which practice is the best for the individual.




Hume, K., McIntyre, Morin, K., N., Nowell, S., Odom, S., Savage, M., Steinbrenner, J., Szendrey, S., Tomaszewski, B. & Yücesoy-Özkan, S. (2020). Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice Review Team.   https://ncaep.fpg.unc.edu/sites/ncaep.fpg.unc.edu/files/imce/documents/EBP%20Report%202020.pdf

Katsiyannis, A., Shriner, J., Yell, M. (2006). Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 and IDEA Regulations of 2006: Implications for Educators, Administrators, and Teacher Trainers. Focus on Exceptional Children.                                                                                                                                        https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/91ca/1168cf19dbb8d7593bb6cc38508b632b7638.pdf

National Autism Center. (2015). Findings and Conclusions: National Standards Project, Phase 2, Addressing the Need for Evidence-Based Practice Guidelines for Autism Spectrum Disorder. National Autism Center.

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