A meta-analysis of three interventions for autistic spectrum disorders

Dominick Avelino Fortugno, Fordham University


Despite their purported advantages, researchers have consistently cited a lack of empirically sound research support for many popular interventions used for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). There is now a tangible need for an effective synthesis of research that includes studies published over the past decade, a need most effectively met by meta-analytic review of cumulative research. The purpose of the present study was to conduct a meta-analysis of research on three ASD interventions: Positive Behavior Support (PBS), the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communications Handicapped Children (TEACCH), and Sensory Integration Therapy (SIT). The current study sought to clarify these treatments‘ efficacies in treating common symptoms of ASD, and to explore variables that may moderate positive outcomes. Two effect size measures, Improvement Rate Difference (IRD) and Spearman's Rho, were calculated for single-subject studies. Cohen's d was calculated as the measure of effect size for multiple-case studies. Effect sizes measures for single case designs were significantly correlated, suggesting IRD and other visual effect size calculations for single-case research may offer valuable information when used in meta-analyses. No conclusive relationship was noted between effect sizes and year of publication, number of data points, or age of examinees. Analysis of variance based on variability and heterogeneity revealed significant differences between mean effect sizes across treatment types and treated deficits. PBS research produced consistently strong results for decreasing maladaptive behavior, improving verbal communication, and promoting adaptive behaviors and social skills. support for TEACCH-based interventions with ASD populations has been generally promising, though further research is needed replicate the present results. Research studies exploring the efficacy of SIT interventions were largely inconsistent in their findings. SIT demonstrated significantly smaller effects than either PBS or TEACCH, and were significantly less effective in promoting positive outcomes. The current findings mirror the results of the National Autism Center National Standards Project (NSP). Specifically, the current results support the classification of PBS as an "established" intervention and the classification of SIT as "unestablished." Contrary to NSP findings, the current study support the classification of TEACCH-based structured teaching interventions as an established, not emerging, treatment for ASD.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

Fortugno, Dominick Avelino, "A meta-analysis of three interventions for autistic spectrum disorders" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3475175.