Applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorders: literature review

Codas. 2013;25(3):289-96. doi: 10.1590/s2317-17822013000300016.
[Article in English, Portuguese]


Purpose: Systematic literature review about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) proposals directed towards persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorders aiming to contribute to a truly evidence-based practice.

Methods: [corrected] References from the last five years were obtained from the Web of Science, Medline, SciELO and Lilacs databases. Papers published in peer-reviewed journals were selected. Exclusion criteria were language, type of paper, theme and repeated papers. This selection resulted in 52 articles that were completely analyzed. Information regarding author, journal and date; title; theme and approach; casuistic; inclusion and exclusion criteria and conclusion was considered.

Results: The papers refer to intervention processes, literature reviews, professional education, and parents' contributions to the intervention programs. Only four papers report the parents' role in the use of ABA principles at home. Studies about Professional education emphasize the specialized education. Most of the literature review papers conclude that the intervention programs are controversial, expensive and dependent of external variables. Although the articles describing intervention processes include 663 participants, a meta-analysis is not possible due to the lack of comparable inclusion and characterization criteria.

Conclusion: There is not enough evidence of ABA's preponderance over other alternatives.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / therapy*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor