Designing research studies on psychosocial interventions in autism

Tristram Smith, Lawrence Scahill, Geraldine Dawson, Donald Guthrie, Catherine Lord, Samuel Odom, Sally J Rogers, Ann Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


To address methodological challenges in research on psychosocial interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a model was developed for systematically validating and disseminating interventions in a sequence of steps. First, initial efficacy studies are conducted to establish interventions as promising. Next, promising interventions are assembled into a manual, which undergoes pilot-testing. Then, randomized clinical trials test efficacy under controlled conditions. Finally, effectiveness studies evaluate outcomes in community settings. Guidelines for research designs at each step are presented. Based on the model, current priorities in ASD research include (a) preparation for efficacy and effectiveness trials by developing manuals for interventions that have shown promise and (b) initial efficacy studies on interventions for core features of ASD such as social reciprocity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-366
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Autism
  • Behavioral treatment
  • Clinical trial
  • Psychosocial intervention
  • Single-subject design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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