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Selecting an Evidence-Based Practice

Using interventions that have been proven to be effective with students with autism, or evidence-based practices (EBPs), is not only practical, but is mandated by law (ESSA, IDEA, & Texas Administrative Code §89.1055(e)). This section provides practical information on how to select the evidence-base practice(s) that will be effective for your learner.

One of the first steps to selecting an EBP is to learn more about each of them. You are in the right place. Currently, there are 28 evidence-based practices identified by the National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence & Practice (NCAEP). The Interventions section of the TARGET on this website provides you with information about all 28 and can save you research time and effort. You can search the interventions on our site by evidence-rating, outcome area, and age to narrow your focus. We have included information on practices that are not one of the 28 identified EBPs for a couple of reasons. Some practices have some evidence showing probable effectiveness, but not enough evidence to meet the strict criteria to be deemed an EBP by NCAEP. If one of these practices is chosen for a student, the educator should show their own data they collected justifying its use. We have also provided information on practices that have no evidence supporting them and information on a couple practices that have even been deemed dangerous for students. We do this to give you a tool to prove the lack of evidence.

Once you have identified likely EBPs to use, how do you choose? Which one(s) will help your learner meet their goals? Where should you begin?

To answer these questions, we rely on the Autism Focused Interventions Resources & Modules (AFIRM)’s four step process:

  • Identifying the behavior
  • Defining the extent of the behavior (collecting baseline data)
  • Establishing an observable and measurable goal or outcome
  • Choosing an EBP

Successful outcomes rely heavily on precise execution of the first three steps. At the fourth step, choosing an EBP, they recommend careful consideration of the following four important sources of information. Each source has key questions to consider (AFIRM, nd).

Child and Family Characteristics

  • What are the strengths of the learner including learning style, temperament, interests, and motivators?
  • What has and has not worked in the past at home and at school?
  • What is particularly challenging for the learner?

Clues Found in the Goal or Outcome

  • What is the goal trying to accomplish and in what learning domain?

Teacher/Team Characteristics

  • What is the knowledge and skill level of the teacher and other interveners?
  • What EBPs have been used successfully by teachers and team members?

Other Resources Available

  • What supports are being used effectively with the learner?
  • What equipment is needed and available to support implementation of the practice?
  • What people and resources can be identified to assist with implementation (related service providers, siblings in the school, peers)?
  • What additional learning experiences exist at the school or in the community that would be beneficial in achieving the goal (clubs, sports teams, community-based experiences)?

Answering these questions and completing these four steps of the selection process, will assist you in selecting the right EBP. For more specific and detailed information on these steps, please visit the AFIRM Information on Selecting an Evidence-Based Practice. You may also find these documents helpful in your selection process:

  • Selecting an EBP checklist
  • Domain Matrix You can use this matrix (Steinbrenner, et al., 2020) to help you identify EBPs identified by research for the age of the learner and the domain of instruction.

The best measure of an intervention’s effectiveness is whether it is effective for a particular individual. It is of the utmost importance to collect and analyze data when using interventions with a learner with autism. If an intervention results in positive change for a particular learner and you, as an educational professional or parent (expert on your child), have data to support that outcome, then the intervention is evidence-based for that learner (in that setting for that goal at this time). Moreover, EBPs will not be successful if support for the intervention is not available within the school and community (Odom, 2009). School support is an especially important consideration when children with autism are integrated into general education classrooms. Careful execution of the steps of this process will lead to the selection of appropriate EBPs that can be implemented with fidelity and provide excellent outcomes for your learners.