Interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder

The National Council for Special Education in Ireland has published a systematic literature review of the research evidence available on educational interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Among other questions, the review, by Caroline Bond and colleagues from the University of Manchester, considered what works best in the provision of education for people with ASD. The literature review included 85 best-evidence studies published between 2008 and 2013. These studies were considered to be of at least medium standard for the quality of evidence, methodological appropriateness, and effectiveness of the intervention. Most studies focused on preschool children and children aged 5–8 years.

For preschool children, two interventions were rated as having the most evidence:

  • Interventions designed to increase joint attention skills, usually involving one-to-one delivery of a play-based/turn-taking intervention by a teacher or parent
  • Comprehensive preschool intervention programs, which offered a comprehensive educational experience for the child, targeting areas such as behaviour, social skills, communication, and learning

For school-aged children, three interventions were rated as having the most evidence:

  • Peer-mediated interventions – group interventions with peers to support the development of social skills in children with ASD and/or help peers to interact more successfully with children with ASD
  • Multi-component social skills interventions, which included several elements, such as social skills training, peer support in school, or the involvement of parents in supporting the child’s social skills
  • Behavioural interventions based on behavioural principles were also used to target challenging/interfering behaviours in children with ASD, often based on an initial functional assessment followed by specific interventions

Source: Educating Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorder – A Systematic Literature Review (2016), The National Council for Special Education