Objectives: The goal was to conduct a systematic review to identify, appraise, and synthesize the single subject research design (SSRD) studies that contribute to our empirical understanding of the effectiveness of parent and teacher training interventions designed to teach social and communication skills to individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
Methods: A systematic search was conducted in 20 electronic databases (e.g., MEDLINE, PsycINFO, ERIC, etc.) covering educational and psychosocial articles that were published in English between 1994-2008. Relevant articles were identified according to a set of selection criteria. The level of evidence and quality of conduct of the studies was assessed using the rating scales developed by the AACPDM work group (Logan, Hickman, Harris, & Heriza, 2008) and by Smith et al. (2007). The AACPDM scale consists of 14 questions that address the selection and description of participants, description of intervention, and accuracy of measurement. The Smith et al. scale consists of 7 questions that address criteria in similar areas. Information regarding the study design, participants, intervention, outcomes, and conclusions were extracted into a common database.
Results: Fifteen parent training and six teacher training SSRD studies met the selection criteria and were included. A total of 75 individuals with ASD ranging from toddlers to adolescents and their parents/teachers were represented across these studies. Parents (almost all mothers) included those with low to high education and low to high socio-economic status. One study was rated as having high quality, 20 were of moderate quality, and one was weak in quality. Overall, the studies reported mastery of the target procedures by parents and teachers and concomitant increases in child social-communicative behaviors. Parents were trained to implement discrete trial teaching (DTT), pivotal response training, various forms of natural environment and incidental teaching, time delay, other systematic instructional techniques. Teachers were taught to use DTT and various types of prompts and contingent reinforcement.
Conclusions: A small number of studies of moderately-high quality have been conducted to examine approaches for training parents and teachers to implement social-communication interventions with individuals with ASD across the range of age and ability. Although these studies provide some guidance with regard to effective training strategies for real-world settings, future work is needed to develop additional training procedures that are both effective and efficient and that can be implemented in home and school settings.