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Transl Psychiatry. 2017 Sep 19;7(9):e1234. doi: 10.1038/tp.2017.207.

An evaluation of the effects of intensity and duration on outcomes across treatment domains for children with autism spectrum disorder.

Author information

Machine Learning and Assistive Technology Laboratory, Schmid College of Science and Technology, Chapman University, Orange, CA, USA.
Department of Research and Development, Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Woodland Hills, CA, USA.
Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA.


Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is considered an effective treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and many researchers have further investigated factors associated with treatment outcomes. However, few studies have focused on whether treatment intensity and duration have differential influences on separate skills. The aim of the current study was to investigate how treatment intensity and duration impact learning across different treatment domains, including academic, adaptive, cognitive, executive function, language, motor, play, and social. Separate multiple linear regression analyses were used to evaluate these relationships. Participants included 1468 children with ASD, ages 18 months to 12 years old, M=7.57 years, s.d.=2.37, who were receiving individualized ABA services. The results indicated that treatment intensity and duration were both significant predictors of mastered learning objectives across all eight treatment domains. The academic and language domains showed the strongest response, with effect sizes of 1.68 and 1.85 for treatment intensity and 4.70 and 9.02 for treatment duration, respectively. These findings are consistent with previous research that total dosage of treatment positively influences outcomes. The current study also expands on extant literature by providing a better understanding of the differential impact that these treatment variables have across various treatment domains.

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