An Evaluation of the Impact of Supervision Intensity, Supervisor Qualifications, and Caseload on Outcomes in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Ample research has shown the benefits of intensive applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD); research that investigates the role of treatment supervision, however, is limited. The present study examined the relationship between mastery of learning objectives and supervision hours, supervisor credentials, years of experience, and caseload in a large sample of children with ASD (N = 638). These data were retrieved from a large archival database of children with ASD receiving community-based ABA services. When analyzed together via a multiple linear regression, supervision hours and treatment hours accounted for only slightly more of the observed variance (r 2 = 0.34) than treatment hours alone (r 2 = 0.32), indicating that increased supervision hours do not dramatically increase the number of mastered learning objectives. In additional regression analyses, supervisor credentials were found to have a significant impact on the number of mastered learning objectives, wherein those receiving supervision from a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) mastered significantly more learning objectives. Likewise, the years of experience as a clinical supervisor showed a small but significant impact on the mastery of learning objectives. A supervisor’s caseload, however, was not a significant predictor of the number of learning objectives mastered. These findings provide guidance for best practice recommendations.


This article was originally published in Behavior Analysis in Practice, volume 9, issue 4, in 2016. DOI: 10.1007/s40617-016-0132-1

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Association for Behavior Analysis International