Interventions for children with autism: what works?

This systematic review from the Campbell Collaboration examines research on the effectiveness of early intensive behavioural intervention (EIBI) in increasing the functional behaviours and skills of young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The core elements of EIBI, which is one of the better-established treatments for ASD, involve (a) a specific teaching procedure referred to as discrete trial training, (b) the use of a 1:1 adult-to-child ratio in the early stages of the treatment, and (c) implementation in either home or school settings for a range of 20 to 40 hours per week across one to four years of the child’s life.

The researchers looked for randomised controlled trials (RCTs), quasi-randomised controlled trials, and clinical controlled trials (CCTs) in which EIBI was compared to a no-treatment or treatment-as-usual control condition. Another criterion was that study participants needed to be less than six years of age at treatment onset and assigned to their study condition prior to commencing treatment. One RCT and four CCTs with a total of 203 participants met the criteria and were included in the review.

After analysing the research, the authors concluded that there is some evidence that EIBI is an effective behavioural treatment for some children with ASD. However, they say that additional studies using RCT research designs are needed to make stronger conclusions.

Source: Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) for young children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD): a systematic review (2015), The Campbell Library.