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What Works Clearinghouse


Overview

Program Description1

The Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis is a type of behavioral therapy that initially focuses on discrete trials: brief periods of one-on-one instruction, during which a teacher cues a behavior, prompts the appropriate response, and provides reinforcement to the child. Children in the program receive an average of 35 to 40 hours of intervention per week, which consists of in-home one-to-one instruction, facilitated peer play, inclusion and support in regular education classrooms, and generalization activities for transfer of skills to natural environments. In addition, parents are trained in instructional techniques. The intervention generally lasts about three years.

Research2

One study of the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis (hereafter the Lovaas Model) that falls within the scope of the Early Childhood Education Interventions for Children with Disabilities review protocol meets What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) evidence standards, and one study meets WWC evidence standards with reservations. The two studies included 51 children in two locations ages 18 to 42 months with autism or pervasive developmental disorder.3

Based on these two studies, the WWC considers the extent of evidence for the Lovaas Model for children with disabilities to be small for cognitive development, communication/language competencies, social-emotional development and behavior, and functional abilities. No studies that meet WWC evidence standards with or without reservations examined the effectiveness of the Lovaas Model on children with disabilities in the literacy, math competencies, or physical well-being domains.

Effectiveness

The Lovaas Model was found to have potentially positive effects on cognitive development for children with disabilities and no discernible effects for communication/language competencies, social-emotional development/behavior, and functional abilities. No studies that meet WWC evidence standards with or without reservations examined the effectiveness of the Lovaas Model on children with disabilities in the literacy, math competencies, or physical well-being domains.

Cognitive develop-
ment
Commu-
nication/
language compe-tencies
Literacy Math
compe-
tencies
Social-emotional develop-
ment/ behavior
Functional
abilities
Physical well-
being
Rating of effectiveness Potentially positive No discernible effects na na No discernible effects No discernible effects na
Improvement index4

+27 percentile points


Average:
–3 percentile points

Range: –4 to –3 percentile points

na




na

na




na

Average:
+7 percentile points

Range: +2 to +14 percentile points

+4 percentile points


na




na

na = not applicable

1 The descriptive information for this program was obtained from publicly available sources: the program’s website (http://www.lovaas.com, downloaded February 2010) and the literature reviewed for this report. The WWC requests developers to review the program description sections for accuracy from their perspective. Further verification of the accuracy of the descriptive information for this program is beyond the scope of this review. The literature search reflects documents publicly available by February 2010.
2 The studies in this report were reviewed using WWC Evidence Standards, Version 2.0 (see the WWC Procedures and Standards Handbook, Chapter III), as described in protocol Version 2.0.
3 The evidence presented in this report is based on available research. Findings and conclusions may change as new research becomes available.
4 These numbers show the average and range of student-level improvement indices for all findings across the studies.