Evidence-Based Practices

What are Evidence-based Practices?

Many interventions exist for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Yet, scientific research has found only some of these interventions to be effective. The interventions that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices (EBPs). One reason for using EBPs is because, by law, teaching practices must be based on evidence of effectiveness.

What EBPs have been identified?

The NPDC used a rigorous criteria to classify 27 focused interventions as EBPs in 2014. The 27 identified EBPs have been shown through scientific research to be effective when implemented correctly with students with ASD. The NPDC developed online modules, called AFIRM, for each of the 27 identified practices.

Autism Internet Modules imageWe are currently in the process of updating the systematic review through 2017 as part of the National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAEP) Find out more on our NCAEP website.

Select an EBP below to access a module about the practice. Each module provides an overview and general description, step-by-step instructions of implementation, an implementation checklist, and the evidence-base which includes the list of references that demonstrate the practice meets the NPDC's criteria.

To print out a specific EBP Brief Packet, access the AFIRM modules and download the EBP Brief packet. 

Evidence-based Practices

Icon indicates practices with newly developed content (2015-2018) on AFIRM. Select the practice to access these modules and downloadable resources. 

Antecedent-based Intervention (ABI) Naturalistic Interventions (NI) Self-management (SM)
Cognitive Behavioral Intervention (CBI)* Parent-implemented Interventions (PII) Social Narratives (SN)

Differential Reinforcement (DR)

Previously Differential Reinforcement of Alternative, Incompatible, or Other Behavior

Peer-mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII)

Social Skills Training         (SST)

Previously Social Skills Groups

Discrete Trial Training (DTT)

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

Structured Play Groups (SPG)*
Exercise (ECE)* Pivotal Response Training (PRT) Task Analysis (TA)
Extinction (EXT) Prompting (PP)

Technology-aided Instruction and Intervention (TAII)*

Previously Computer Aided Instruction and Speech Generating Devices

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) Reinforcement (R+) Time Delay (TD)
Functional Communication Training (FCT) Response Interruption/Redirection (RIR) Video Modeling (VM)
Modeling (MD)* Scripting (SC)* Visual Supports (VS)

*Indicates new EBP identified in 2014 review.

See the working definitions of each EBP in this excerpt from the 2014 Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder report. The full report is available here.

For more information on the AFIRM modules, please visit afirm.fpg.unc.edu or email the AFIRM Team at afirm@unc.edu.

To read more about the impact, usefulness, and relevance of AFIRM, please read the "Disseminating Information on Evidence-Based Practices for Children and Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder: AFIRM" article published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities (Sam et al., 2019).

Comparison of NPDC and NSP EBPs

In a subsequent analysis, researchers compared the practices identified by NPDC and the National Standards Project (NSP, 2015), finding substantial agreement between the two reviews.  Twenty-one of the practices identified by NPDC as evidence-based were considered established practices by NSP. Four NPDC EBPs were considered emerging practices by NSP (i.e., exercise, functional communication training, picture exchange programs, and technology intervention and instruction).  Two NPDC EBPs were not identified by NSP (i.e., functional assessment, and structured play groups).

To print out the NPDC NSP Comparison table, download the table here and open using Adobe Reader.