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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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3.1 Principles of evaluation

Activity 1 Reflecting on the principles

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Imagine that you are a practitioner considering a new intervention developed by a team of researchers and practitioners, who claim successful evaluation of their procedure. What questions would you want to be sure had been addressed? Drawing on the earlier discussion in Section 2, note three or four key points.

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Here is a list of major considerations:


Does the suggested intervention draw upon theory and/or previous research about autism which helps to explain how and why it might work?


What specific problems, behaviours or skills is the intervention supposed to target? (e.g. if communication, which aspects?)


Does the suggested intervention avoid unpleasant or dangerous side effects? Does it safeguard the well-being of participants?

Were the researchers who conducted the evaluation independent of the group involved in developing and promoting it?


Participants: has the procedure been tested with an adequately sized group of participants, all with a verified autism diagnosis?

Have specific procedures for the intervention been clearly defined, and rigorously followed during the study?

Criteria for ‘success’: what measures or findings indicate that targeted behaviour has been reduced or enhanced?


Do any changes which come about actually result from the procedure? (They could occur by chance or due to some other factor.)

Would the intervention generalise, that is be effective long-term and if administered in ‘real-life’ settings?

There has been increasing emphasis in recent years on the need for interventions to be fully evaluated, to avoid harm, and to comply with the principles of evidence-based practice. In an ideal situation, evaluation should commence with relatively small-scale informal tests, and build up to more formal and wide-ranging evaluation, as outlined next.