The Effectiveness of Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention Programs

By: Marlena N. Smith, B.A.

In a recent study, Makrygianni and Reed found early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) programs to be very effective in treating autism spectrum disorders (ASD). While many unproven treatments for ASD exist, EIBI is among the most well-known and thoroughly researched interventions. Makrygianni and Reed set out to investigate the success of EIBI programs: a topic that is important for parents of children with ASD, as well as program planners and funding organizations.

The authors performed a meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of EIBI programs. A meta-analysis is a statistical research tool that combines the results of multiple studies and examines similarities between the studies’ features and their outcomes. The studies were analyzed in two ways. First, the participants’ pre-treatment and post-treatment performances were evaluated. Second, EIBI outcomes were compared to other ASD treatment outcomes.

The authors found that EIBI programs greatly improved intellectual and language abilities in children with ASD, and moderately improved adaptive behavior abilities. Furthermore, the authors found that EIBI programs were more effective than other ASD treatment programs.

While EIBI programs were found to be effective, levels of success differed across the studies. For that reason, the authors evaluated factors that may contribute to a program’s effectiveness. The following factors were identified:

  • Increased program intensity
  • Longer program duration
  • Parent training in EIBI methods
  • Younger age at intake
  • Greater adaptive behavior abilities at intake

Continued efforts to explore the effectiveness of EIBI programs are very important. These findings help parents make educated decisions when selecting a treatment program. Furthermore, this information is useful for program planners designing treatment plans and organizations funding these services.


Makrygianni, M. K., & Reed, P. (in press). A meta-analytic review of the effectiveness of behavioural early intervention programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2010.01.014

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