Evidence-Based Practice for Autism

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

In this lesson, you will learn about autism and signs and symptoms associated with it. We will also discuss different scientifically-proven methods that have been shown to help children with autism.


Brian is a three year-old boy. He can often be found playing with a single toy for hours on end, seeming to not be aware of the world around him. He doesn't talk like most three year-old children; in fact, he only says a handful of words occasionally. His mother remembers even when he was a baby, he didn't seem to respond to cuddling or verbal interactions like most babies. A couple months ago, Brian was diagnosed with autism.

Autism is a complex disorder of brain development and can vary in severity. Children with autism have difficulties with socialization and communication. They have repetitive behaviors also. A child with autism may have intellectual challenges and difficulty with motor coordination. It is hard for these children to focus and pay attention; they often seem to be in their own world, unaware of what is going on around them. There are often additional physical health issues associated with autism. Even with these challenges, many times children with autism actually excel in music, art, or math.


Autism affects 1 in 68 children currently, and the numbers are increasing. It's one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the U.S. Boys are more likely than girls to have autism, and there is no cure. Autism can cost a family $60,000 a year due to medical care, educational needs and special accommodations!

With the increasing incidence of autism has come an increased demand for effective education and therapies to serve these children. Due to the increased demand and need, there are now scientifically proven methods to best support and educate children with autism. These methods are referred to as evidence-based practice. There are currently many evidence-based practices to help children with autism learn both academically and behaviorally. We will review a few of these more in depth.

Evidence-Based Practices

Research has proven that starting intensive interventions for toddlers or preschoolers with autism can help improve learning, communication, and social skills. The guidelines for this intensive therapy include having at least 25 hours a week of structured, therapeutic activities. The program includes a multidisciplinary team including a physician, speech-language pathologist, and occupational therapist. The interventions are focused on social skills, language and communication, play skills and imitation, daily living activities, and motor skills. They also incorporate interactions with children without autism.

Now that Brian's mother understands that her child has autism, she is beginning to learn different ways to help him learn. She shows Brian how to pick up his toys off the floor and place them in his basket. She then asks him to complete the same task.

In this example, the mother is using modeling. In modeling, she demonstrates the desired action for him to observe and then to imitate and complete the same task. This helps him to learn the desired behavior.

Brian isn't able to complete the task modeled by his mom. He picks up the toy but doesn't put it in the basket, so his mom holds his hand with the toy and directs him to put it in the basket.

This is an example of using prompting. Prompting is providing additional 'prompts' to help complete the task. There are different levels of prompting from full physical assistance to only needing verbal prompting.

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