Research Base
Blue Ribbon Findings on Evidence-Based Practices
Blue Ribbon Findings on Evidence-Based Practices
The National Autism Center’s National Standards Project and the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) almost entirely agree on which educational interventions are effective for children with ASD (National Autism Center, 2009; Wong et al., 2013). They used a stringent review process that incorporated clear criteria for evaluating evidence from over two decades of research. Of the 27 evidence-based practices identified by the NPDC, 26 were identified by the National Standards Project as established or emerging practices. Educational practitioners can access 12 of the 27 evidence-based practices in TeachTown Basics and TeachTown Social Skills. Click here to see TeachTown’s alignment to these studies’ findings.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Lying at the heart of TeachTown Basics are the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). As defined by Baer, Wolf, & Risley (1968), “Applied Behavior Analysis is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior.” In ABA, the use of environmental manipulations, reinforcement strategies and consequences, and ongoing data collection help to build meaningful and appropriate skill repertoires while decreasing inappropriate behavior.
Instructional Methodologies Include:
  • Discrete Trial Training is a behavioral treatment intervention using the principles of ABA and derived from the work of Ole Ivar Lovaas, a UCLA psychologist considered to be one of the fathers of ABA. Discrete trial training takes a large or long-term goal and breaks it down into small, achievable steps. A particular trial may be practiced numerous times until the skill is mastered.
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is a behavioral treatment intervention based on the principles of ABA and derived from the work of Koegel, Schreibman, Dunlap, & Horner. PRT incorporates task interspersal, direct reinforcement, and the role of choice. Key pivotal behaviors, such as motivation and responsiveness to multiple cues, have been identified for students with autism.
  • Incidental Teaching provides structured learning opportunities in the natural environment by using the child’s interests and natural motivation. Incidental teaching was developed to increase language and social responses by maximizing the power of reinforcement and encouraging generalization (Hart & Risley, 1968, 1974; McGee, et al., 1999).
  • Use of Visual Supports – Visual supports are tools that are used to increase the understanding of language, environmental expectations, and to provide structure and support (Charlop & Milstein: 1989, Campbell, et al., 1995; Schreibman, Whalen, & Stahmer, 2000).
Effective and Research-Based Use of Reinforcement
Reinforcement is a key component of both Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and TeachTown Basics. Reinforcement can be defined as a stimulus that increases the future rate of the behavior from which it immediately follows. As shown by decades of research, behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to be repeated. In TeachTown Basics, reinforcement in the form of verbal praise and an animated starburst follow each correct student response during training exercises. Additionally, brief reward games and animated cartoon episodes are offered to students as reinforcement on a variable ratio schedule during lessons. In TeachTown Basics, no verbal feedback or verbal redirection is provided following incorrect student responses, minimizing the likelihood that attention is drawn to the incorrect stimuli.
Computer-assisted Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
There are many benefits to using TeachTown Basics for computer-assisted DTT:
  • The program is adaptive, automatically adjusting difficulty levels and selecting lessons based on student progress.
  • Each student’s data are automatically collected and reported.
  • The stimuli in training trials differ from pre- and post-test trials, to help ensure concept learning rather than memorization.
  • An error-free learning experience can be attained, depending on a student's needs, by utilizing a hierarchy of prompts; least-to-most or most-to-least.
  • Educators can customize the curriculum, based on the individual student’s needs or IEP goals.

Trial difficulty is controlled by within-stimulus prompting, which has been shown to result in better discrimination, faster generalization and independence. When the student does not respond or responds incorrectly, a least-to-most procedure is utilized. When needed, a most-to-least prompting hierarchy can be implemented.
Reinforcement is Key to Keeping Students Engaged in Learning
  • An intermittent reinforcement schedule is an effective way to keep students responding.
  • The reward games and animated cartoon episodes that last approximately 30 seconds, timeout and return students back to instructional trials automatically.
  • The rewards use engaging characters that motivate students to learn.