A comparison of intensive behavior analytic and eclectic treatments for young children with autism

Res Dev Disabil. 2005 Jul-Aug;26(4):359-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ridd.2004.09.005.


We compared the effects of three treatment approaches on preschool-age children with autism spectrum disorders. Twenty-nine children received intensive behavior analytic intervention (IBT; 1:1 adult:child ratio, 25-40 h per week). A comparison group (n=16) received intensive "eclectic" intervention (a combination of methods, 1:1 or 1:2 ratio, 30 h per week) in public special education classrooms (designated the AP group). A second comparison group (GP) comprised 16 children in non-intensive public early intervention programs (a combination of methods, small groups, 15 h per week). Independent examiners administered standardized tests of cognitive, language, and adaptive skills to children in all three groups at intake and about 14 months after treatment began. The groups were similar on key variables at intake. At follow-up, the IBT group had higher mean standard scores in all skill domains than the AP and GP groups. The differences were statistically significant for all domains except motor skills. There were no statistically significant differences between the mean scores of the AP and GP groups. Learning rates at follow-up were also substantially higher for children in the IBT group than for either of the other two groups. These findings are consistent with other research showing that IBT is considerably more efficacious than "eclectic" intervention.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Communication
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language Therapy / methods*
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index