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The NPDC on ASD and the National Standards Project

Both the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and the National Standards Project (NSP) reviewed literature to establish evidence-based practices for individuals with autism spectrum disorders between the ages of birth and 22 years. In many ways, the two processes were quite similar. Both reviews included literature up to and including 2007, and both applied rigorous criteria when determining which studies would be included as evidence of efficacy for a given practice. The criteria used by the National Professional Development Center can be found on our website in the Evidence-Based Practices section. The criteria used by the National Standards Project can be found beginning on page 10 of the National Standards Report.


Why would the NPDC on ASD and the National Standards Project both conduct similar literature reviews to identify evidence-based practices for children and youth with autism? >>


Why are the findings from the NPDC on ASD and the findings from the National Standards Project somewhat different? >>


How Do Findings of the NPDC and NSP Overlap and Differ?

The following chart describes the overlap between evidence-based practices identified by the NPDC and the NSP. Select the image of the chart for an enlarged view. Click here for a PDF version.

image of matrix

Why would the NPDC on ASD and the National Standards Project both conduct similar literature reviews to identify evidence-based practices for children and youth with autism?

In 2007, the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education funded the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC) to promote the use of evidence-based practices in programs for infants, children, and youth with ASD and their families. Before we could promote evidence-based practices, we needed to identify those practices with a sufficient evidence (of efficacy) for children and youth with ASD. Our intent was to utilize the results from the NSP. Unfortunately, the timing of the NSP report was such that it would not be completed until after the NPDC had begun work with states in 2008.

Why are the findings from the NPDC on ASD and the findings from the National Standards Project somewhat different?

Differences in how one defines ‘practice’:

The NPDC defined as their unit of analysis focused intervention practices, and the NSP identified as their unit “treatments.”  “Focused interventions are individual instructional practices or strategies that teachers and other practitioners use to promote specific outcomes for children with ASD, such as goals that would appear on IEPs or outcomes on ISSPs. The practices should provide explicit information about steps involved in their implementation.”1  For the NSP, treatments represent “either intervention strategies (i.e., therapeutic techniques that may be used in isolation) or intervention classes (i.e., a combination of different intervention strategies that hold core characteristics in common).”2  Treatments, as noted in the subsequent section, is a broader conceptualization than focused intervention practices, sometimes incorporating multiple focused interventions into treatment “packages” of comprehensive treatment programs.

Differences in how practices were clustered:

While the NPDC on ASD has chosen to list focused interventions individually, the NSP “combined intervention strategies into intervention classes to lend clarity regarding the effectiveness of the treatment...whenever possible.”2  For example, the NSP combined several focused interventions into antecedent and behavioral packages. Other differences in conceptualization also affected findings. While the NPDC on ASD reviewed parent-implemented intervention as an individual practice, the NSP did not elect to consider this as a separate category of intervention. The NSP reviewed a category of interventions called joint attention interventions, while the NPDC on ASD considers joint attention to be an outcome, and reviewed the components of the interventions that promote joint attention. In all of these cases, there is little disagreement as to which interventions have a strong evidence base; the differences relate to organization and categorization.

Differences in the evaluation process and criteria:

Because the NPDC on ASD and the NSP used somewhat different evaluation processes and criteria to identify evidence-based practices, some of the practices that the NPDC on ASD identified as having a strong evidence base were only identified as “emerging” practices by the NSP. The NSP states that emerging practices are “those practices for which additional high quality studies that consistently show these treatments to be effective for individuals with ASD are needed before we can be fully confident that the treatments are effective.”2  As illustrated in the chart above, five of the NPDC on ASD identified practices, including social skills training groups, speech generating devices, computer aided instruction, Picture Exchange Communication System, and extinction, were categorized as emerging practices by the NSP.
1 Odom, S., Collet-Klingenberg, L., Rogers, S., & Hatton, D. (2010). Evidence-Based Practices in Interventions for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Preventing School Failure, 54(4), 275-282.
2 National Autism Center (2009). National Standards Report. Retrieved from http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/affiliates/reports.php