Between 1985 and the present, there have been well over 500 major research articles published concerning Applied Behavior Analysis and the Autism Spectrum. Here is some of the key information from those sources.

2010 review of published early intensive behavior intervention studies

“Using participant data to extend the evidence base for Intensive Behavioral Intervention for children with autism.”

Individual data from children (n=453) were divided into three groups: those that had received behavioral intervention, those that had received another intervention of similar intensity or to a control group where no specific intervention was provided. The outcomes for the behavioral intervention group were significantly better than those for the control and comparison groups and were even demonstrated to compare well with statistics used to evaluate mainstream healthcare interventions. We found that intensity of intervention (35 or more hours per week of EIBI) was related to both IQ and ABC gains, and that IQ and ABC scores at intake were related to gains in ABC scores.


Eldevik, S., Hastings, R.P., Hughes, J.C., Jahr, E., Eikeseth, S., & Cross, S. (2010).
American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 115, 381-405.
2009 study analyzing the effects of early intensive behavior intervention

“Meta-analysis of early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism.”

The results of the analysis indicate that EIBI is an effective treatment for children with autism (the average effect size was 1.1 for change in IQ, and .66 for ABC. These effect sizes are generally considered to be large and moderate, respectively. The results of the meta-analysis support the implication that at present, and in the absence of other interventions with established efficacy, EIBI should be the intervention of choice for young children with autism.


Eldevik, S., Hastings, R.P., Hughes, J.C., Jahr, E., Eikeseth, S., & Cross, S. (2009).
Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 38, 439-450.
2008 review of early intervention research

“Evidence-based comprehensive treatments for early autism.”

Review of early intervention research by independent authors. Lovaas’ treatment was the only early intervention for children with autism that met criteria as a “well-established” treatment.

Rogers, S. & Vismara, L. (2008).
Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 37, 8-38.
2006 study replicating the 1987 Lovaas study results

Early Intensive Behavioral Treatment: Replication of the UCLA Model in a Community Setting.

The most recent replication study of the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis by an independent author. Children in behavioral treatment scored significantly higher in IQ and adaptive behavior scores than the comparison group. Further, 29% (6 of 21) children were fully included in regular education without assistance and another 52% (11 of 21) were included with support. This compares to only 5% (1 of 21) children in the control group who were placed in regular education.


Cohen, Howard, Amerine-Dickens, Mila, Smith, Tristram. (2006).
Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 27 (2), 145-155.
2005 study replicating the 1987 Lovaas study results

Intensive Behavioral Treatment for Children with Autism: Four-Year Outcome and Predictors.

Replication study of the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis by an independent author. Dr. Sallows states, “We found that 48% of all children showed rapid learning, achieved average posttreatment scores, and at age 7, were succeeding in regular education classrooms. These results are consistent with those reported by Lovaas and colleagues (Lovaas, 1987; McEachin, Smith, & Lovaas, 1993).”


Sallows, Glen O. & Graupner, Tamlynn D. (2005).
American Journal on Mental Retardation, 110 (6), 417-438.
2005 independent replication study directly comparing three treatments

A Comparison of Intensive Behavior Analytic and Eclectic Treatments for Young Children with Autism.

Results from an independent research group that replicate the findings of Eikeseth et al. (2002). As summarized in the journal abstract, “intensive behavioral treatment is considerably more efficacious than ‘eclectic’ intervention.”


Howard, Jane S. , Sparkman, Coleen R., Cohen, Howard G., Green, Gina, & Stanislaw, Harold. (2005).
Research in Developmental Disabilities, 26 (4), 359-383.
2002 study directly comparing two treatments

Intensive Behavioral Treatment at School for 4- to 7-Year-Old Children with Autism.

Demonstrates that a focused behavioral treatment program is far superior than an eclectic special education approach that uses a variety of treatments. (Children in both groups received the same number of hours of treatment by qualified personnel.)


Eikeseth, Svein, Smith, Tristram, & Eldevik, Erik Jahr Sigmund. (2002).
Behavior Modification, 26, 49-68.
2001 book published by the National Research Council

Educating Children with Autism, National Research Council

Identifies the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis as one of the “state-of-the-art” programs for children with autism

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2000 study replicating the 1987 Lovaas study

“Randomized trial of intensive early intervention for children with pervasive developmental disorder.”

Only randomized controlled trial of early intensive behavioral treatment. Intensive group, utilizing the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis (but only 30 hours per week), showed significant difference in IQ, language development, and academic skills compared to the control. No significant difference in Vineland scores or tests of behavior problems. IQ gain (16 pts) and students placed in regular education classes (27%) half of 1987 study.


Smith, T., Green, A., & Wynn, J. (2000).
American Journal of Mental Retardation, 105, 269-285.
2000 report from the Surgeon General


Acknowledges the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in the treatment of children with autism and cites the “well-designed study carried out by Lovaas and colleagues”

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1999 report from the New York State health department


Recommends a minimum of 20 hours per week of individualized behavioral interventions using ABA techniques, based on strong evidence in the research.

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1998 cost-benefit analysis of intensive, early behavioral intervention.

“Cost-Benefit Estimates for Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism-General Model and Single State Case.”

Demonstrates that providing behavioral treatment to all children with autism for three years, delivered between the ages of 2 to 6 years, would save approximately $200,000 per child for ages 3-22 years and up to $1,000,000 per child for ages 3-55 years. The savings per child even takes into account that some children will not benefit at all from behavioral treatment and some will only make modest gains.

Jacobson, John W., Mulick, James A., & Green, Gina. (1998).
Behavioral Interventions, 13, 201-226.
1993 follow up study

Long-term outcome for children with autism who received early intensive behavioral treatment.

Follow-up research in early adolescence showed that children in the 1987 study maintained their skills and could succeed in life without costly special education and residential services.


McEachin, J. J., Smith, T., & Lovaas, O. I. (1993).
American Journal on Mental Retardation, 97 (4), 359-372.
1987 study of intensive behavioral treatment

Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children.

Original research in peer-reviewed journals indicating that 90% of children substantially improved when utilizing the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis, compared to the control group. Close to half attained a normal IQ and tested within the normal range on adaptive and social skills.

Lovaas, O. I. (1987).
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9.