A review of: Reichow, B., Wolery, M. (2008). Comprehensive Synthesis of Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions for Young Children with Autism Based on the UCLA Young Autism Project Model. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-008-0596-0
The Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI) program for children with autism was created in the early 80s at UCLA. This program has been the subject of extensive research for almost 30 years and is now viewed as one of the few empirically supported treatment intervention for autism. In this article, the authors conducted an extensive review and meta-analysis of the effectiveness of this program. A meta-analysis is a methodological and statistical process that attempts to equate and compare the results of multiple past studies in order to reach a conclusion. This analysis included 14 research reports that met specific inclusion criteria. The meta-analysis was focused on examining the effect of EIBI on performance on IQ tests.
The overall effect size across studies was 0.69, which was statistically significantly different from 0 (p=0.001). An effect size of .69 is considered moderate-to-large, which suggested that EIBI is an effective intervention in leading to an improvement on performance on standardized intellectual assessment tests. The authors analyzed several factors that could have affected these results such as the duration of the treatment used in each study, the age of the child, the pre-treatment IQ level of the child, etc. Surprisingly, the training model used by the clinician was the only variable that affected the results. Those clinicians trained according to the UCLA model were more effective than clinicians exposed to other training methods.
In conclusion, the meta-analysis suggests that the EIBI is an effective treatment program leading to an improvement in intellectual functioning scores. Whether this is due to a true improvement in IQ or an improvement in the social behaviors necessary for successful completion of standardized intellectual assessment tools is up for debate. IQ scores are obtained through the use of imperfect assessment tools and therefore such scores reflect a myriad of factors such as true intellectual capacity, motivation, attention, social desirability, anxiety, etc. Yet, changes on IQ scores are highly informative because they often reflect the person’s ability to navigate the social, intellectual, and functional demands encountered in today’s educational and occupational settings.
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