Research ► A descriptive secondary analysis of evidence-based interventions for students with autism spectrum disorder


Martin, R. J., Anderson, C. M., Gould, K. M., Kleinert, W. L., & Marganelli, M. (2020). A descriptive secondary analysis of school-based interventions for students with autism spectrum disorder. Contemporary School Psychology, 1-11. Doi: 10.1007/

ABSTRACT: As the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to increase, more students with ASD will require support in educational settings. Recent systematic reviews have identified numerous evidence-based interventions for individuals with ASD, but none have focused specifically on intervention in schools. This is important because educators face several unique challenges and resource limitations that contribute to the gap between research and practice. We conducted a descriptive secondary analysis of articles included in the two most comprehensive reviews of the literature to date, with the aim of determining the extent to which evidence-based interventions have been evaluated in schools. Result indicates that evidence-based interventions have been disproportionately validated in non-school settings, and the extent to which they have been examined in schools varies by intervention. Further, the majority of school-based intervention studies feature tightly controlled study conditions that may limit external validity. Implications for future research are discussed.

What was studied?

We re-examined the results of two systematic reviews of interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), focusing on interventions that had been studied in schools.

Why did you study this?

Educators do not always use interventions that are based on research. We wanted to determine how much research on evidence-based interventions had been done in school settings and which interventions had been studied the most.

What did you do?

We looked at studies from the two previous reviews that took place in schools. We further analyzed those articles to identify other characteristics of the study, such as the educational settings in which interventions took place, and who implemented the intervention. We also counted how many studies had been done for each type of intervention.

What did you find?

The majority of evidence-based interventions have been studied in non-school settings. Intervention like antecedent-based interventions, technology-aided intervention, video modeling, and visual supports have been studied most frequently in schools. Many of the interventions that have been done in schools have been studied under conditions that do not mirror typical educational settings.

What is next?

This information can be used to help educations make more informed decisions when choosing interventions to support students with ASD.

The study also encourages researchers to conduct additional research on school-based interventions, including interventions that can be feasibly implemented by teachers in typical school settings.