Cognitive-behavioral approaches for children with autism spectrum disorder: A trend analysis

Betty P.V. Ho*, Jennifer Stephenson, Mark Carter

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Cognitive-behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have emerged in the last two decades, and these interventions are now regarded as evidence-based. However, reviews conducted so far often focus on specific areas and do not examine broad trends in the development of relevant research in this area.

    Method: This current trend analysis provided an overview of the development in the research of cognitive-behavioral interventions for children with ASD.This study is based on a total of 103 reports located through a database keyword search and ancestral search.

    Results: It was observed that early stage qualitative case studies have been gradually replaced by experimental studies, while the use of randomized, controlled trials is still limited. Participants included were mainly children with ASD and typical cognitive ability, and demographic description was often incomplete. Programs used were heterogeneous and often replicated. A heavy reliance on rating scales rather than behavioral observation and insufficient data on effect maintenance and generalization were observed. Very recently, researchers conducted supplementary analyses on intervention data and provided information not available in original trial reports.

    Conclusion: A trend to include younger participants (i.e., children at or below 8 years of age) was observed. Although a substantial number of experimental group studies have been conducted, the proportion of randomized, controlled trials and sample sizes did not increase as expected. Consequently, there is the need for larger scale randomized, controlled trials. A major problem was incomplete participant description, in particular measures of autistic symptomology and intelligence. There is the need for more comprehensive participant descriptions that allow readers to identify the characteristics of children with ASD who may benefit from the intervention.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-41
    Number of pages15
    JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


    • autism
    • children
    • cognitive-behavioral
    • intervention
    • research design
    • trend analysis


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