A framework of evidence-based practice for digital support, co-developed with and for the autism community

Autism. 2020 Aug;24(6):1411-1422. doi: 10.1177/1362361319898331. Epub 2020 Feb 6.


Digital supports are any type of technologies that have been intentionally developed to improve daily living in some way. A wide array of digital supports (such as apps) have been developed for the autism community specifically, but there is little or no evidence of whether they work or not. This study sought to identify what types of evidence the autistic community valued and wanted to see provided to enable an informed choice to be made regarding digital supports. A consensus was developed between autistic people and their families, practitioners (such as therapists and teachers) as well as researchers, to identify the core aspects of evidence that everyone agreed were useful. In all, 27 people reached agreement on three categories for which evidence is required: reliability, engagement and the effectiveness of the technology. Consensus was also reached on four key sources of evidence for these three categories: hands-on experience, academic sources, expert views and online reviews. The resulting framework allows for any technology to be evaluated for the level of evidence identifying how effective it is. The framework can be used by autistic people, their families, practitioners and researchers to ensure that decisions concerning the provision of support for autistic people is informed by evidence, that is, 'evidence-based practice'.

Keywords: Delphi study; autism; co-development; digital support; evidence-based practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder*
  • Autistic Disorder*
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Personnel