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Summary of Systematic Review

Behavioural Interventions for Preschool Children with Autism
McGahan, L. (2001).
Ottawa: Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment, Technology Report No. 18. 
This review meets the criteria for a high-quality evidence-based systematic review.
Indicators of Review Quality:
The review states a clearly focused question or aim Yes
Criteria for inclusion of studies are provided Yes
Search strategy is described in sufficient detail for replication Yes
Included studies are assessed for study quality Yes
Quality assessments are reproducible No
Characteristics of the included studies are provided Yes*

*Summary tables provided in Appendix VI. Review Quality 6: Summary of evidence - p. 76

This is a review of the literature investigating previous reviews and expert opinion in regard to behavioral interventions for children with autism. Program options for behavioral interventions include the Lovaas Program, Douglass Developmental Disabilities Centre Program, LEAP, May Institute, Autism Preschool Program, Princeton Child Development Institute Program (PCDI), TEACCH, and the Denver Model.

Question(s)/Aim(s) Addressed:

  1. What is the evidence and expert opinion of respected authorities regarding behavioral therapies and outcomes in preschool children with autism or pervasive developmental disorders based on available research and clinical experience?
  2. What is the current practice regarding behavioural therapy for preschool children with autism or pervasive developmental disorders in Canada?
  3. What factors influence the delivery of services to children with autism in Canada?

Preschool children with autism or a related pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) or the presence of "autistic-like-disorder."

Behavioral interventions including ABA, Lovaas, Douglass, LEAP, May Institute, Autism Preschool Program, PCDI, TEACCH, The Denver Model.

Number of Studies Included:

Years Included:
1995 to 2000


  • Treatment


Behavioral Interventions
  • Based on expert opinion and experience, professionals and parents recommend that ABA principles and strategies be included in any intervention program for young children with autism for a minimum of approximately 20 hours per week. The number of hours per week would be expected to vary depending on characteristics of the child and family (p. 52).
  • Results of previous reviews indicate that primary studies of the efficacy of behavioral interventions suffer from methodological flaws that limit interpretation of the findings. The limited findings suggest that children with autism who receive behavioral intervention demonstrate cognitive and functional improvement; however, the effect on specific subgroups of children, components of intervention, maintenance of effects, and impact on quality of life are unclear (p. 53).

Sponsoring Body:
Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Behavioral Treatments