Applied Behavior Analysis as the Best Evidence-Based Practice Treatment for Autistic Children

Finos, Jennifer, Erin Hoxie, Kathryn Kuelbs, and Joyce Conley

Autism is a condition affecting nearly 1.5 million Americans, and the numbers are increasing each year. Because this is such a widespread disease, determining the best treatment from the numerous available treatments is imperative. This literature review will determine if Applied Behavior Analysis (intensive behavior therapy, discrete trial training, early intensive behavioral intervention, incidental teaching, verbal behavior intervention or pivotal response training) improves cognitive and language skills in children with autism. Applied Behavior Analysis is a relatively new treatment, which creates positive changes in the autistic child through principles of behavior. Currently, another therapy, Sensory Integration Therapy, is used as the “gold standard” for treatment. Sensory Integration Therapy works to create a positive change by stimulating the child‟s senses. PubMed, PubCentral and ScienceDirect were all searched for research done on Applied Behavior Analysis. While searching, multiple names were given to Applied Behavior Analysis, because of the recent development of the therapy. The searches resulted in sixty-one articles that did not fully focus on Applied Behavior Analysis. After filtering through the articles, there were sixteen articles that focused on Applied Behavior Analysis. Eight articles were chosen based on the focus of cognitive and language development and were reviewed for the effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis as a treatment for cognitive and verbal skills in autism. Overall, the literature review reveals that Applied Behavior Analysis is statistically significant in improving cognitive and language skills of autistic children. However, autism treatment needs to be individualized for each patient because of the varying degree of symptoms and varying individual response to the treatment. The literature review statistically supports the use of Applied Behavior Analysis for treatment of children with autism, although more research is necessary to change the clinical practice guidelines.