Applied behavior analysis (ABA) methods have been built into comprehensive, intensive, and often early intervention for children with autism. Supporters of these intervention approaches often enthusiastically share the evidence base for these interventions with parents and policy makers. Although the evidence is impressive, it is important to understand the nature of the evidence base so that its limitations can be ethically and professionally communicated. The evidence from decades of single case experimental designs under-pins ABA intervention with children with autism, but such studies might best be considered a fine example of practice-based evidence and also do not directly support comprehensive and intensive long term intervention models. Group design studies provide the core of the evidence base for comprehensive ABA interventions for children with autism. However, the way that this evidence is used is too often at least implicitly driven by a medical model understanding of autism. In this presentation, I will examine the limitations of the evidence for comprehensive ABA interventions for children with autism and discuss an alternative outcomes model that does not get caught up with the recovery/cure debate. This model draws on the concept of reliable change first discussed in the general psychological therapy outcomes literature.
Review Richard Hastings’s biographical statement.