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Therapist Expertise Can Impact Success of Autism Treatment

Therapist Expertise Can Impact Success of Autism Treatment

While research has shown that intensive applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment for autism spectrum disorder can be effective, treatment protocols and therapists’ level of expertise often vary.

A new study by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and Chapman University reviews the effects of variables in treating autism.

The evaluation provides the most up-to-date, scientifically sound evidence in order to provide the best treatment to those with ASD.

CARD and Chapman University analyzed a pool of more than 800 children from ages 18 months to 12 years. Researchers examined the relationship between mastery of learning objectives and number of hours of training, supervisor credentials, years of experience, and caseload in a large sample of children with ASD.

Investigators analyzed data from a large archival database of children with ASD receiving community-based ABA services.

Researchers discovered being a board certified behavioral analyst and an analyst’s years of experience have a significant direct impact on the autistic individual’s treatment success rate.

A supervisor’s caseload, however, was not a significant predictor of the number of learning objectives mastered.

Researchers believe these findings will help guide those who treat individuals with autism better plan, allocate time and direct resources accurately toward treatment plans.

“We are consistently finding that the single most important factor in a child’s treatment outcome is the number of hours of therapy that they have received,” said Dr. Dennis Dixon, CARD’s Director of Research and Development.

“What this new study adds is a better understanding of what matters in regards to supervision of treatment. We are now able to improve treatment efficiency while also improving outcomes for every child.”

“The ability to use advanced analytics tools to make better decisions about clinical standards of care is likely to completely transform how we approach healthcare for future generations. With this research collaboration, we see a promising example of this shift in the context of ASD,” said Dr. Andrew Lyon, dean of the Schmid College of Science and Technology.

Source: Chapman University

Therapist Expertise Can Impact Success of Autism Treatment

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Therapist Expertise Can Impact Success of Autism Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Jul 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.