Social Validity of Evidence-Based Practices and Emerging Interventions in Autism

Kevin Callahan*, Heather L. Hughes, Smita Mehta, Karen A. Toussaint, Susan M. Nichols, Phoenix S. Ma, Metehan Kutlu, Hui Ting Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Although social validation of the goals, methods, and outcomes of evidence-based practices (EBPs) in autism treatment is a significant factor in their selection and effective use, EBPs are typically identified on the basis of the technical soundness of research without consideration of social validity. The authors investigated EBPs and emerging treatments identified by the National Autism Center (NAC) and National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC) to determine which interventions have evidence of social validity, and the types of social validation addressed. A review of 828 articles cited by the NAC and NPDC determined that only 221 articles (26.7%) demonstrated direct evidence of the measurement of social validation. Of seven social validity categories analyzed, only consumer satisfaction, clinically significant behavioral change, and socially important dependent variables were consistently reported. A list of EBPs with varying levels of social and empirical validation is presented, and implications for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-197
Number of pages10
JournalFocus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sept 1


  • applied behavior analysis
  • autism
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • evidence-based practices
  • social validation
  • special education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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