Embedded Interest Interventions for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Quality Review, Meta-Analysis, and Single-Case Research Evaluation
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Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristically demonstrate interest in a restricted range of activities and often fail to respond to alternative environmental stimuli. These characteristics act as a barrier to learning important life skills. Strategies that motivate learners with ASD to engage in alternative activities warrant development and exploration. One such strategy is embedding interests into the learning environment to establish motivation and promote participation. While a number of studies in this area exist, the literature has yet to be synthesized. This dissertation contains two reviews and a single-case research evaluation to determine the evidence of embedding interests for individuals with ASD. The first study is a systematic review of quality and evidence for 20 single-case and group-based research studies. Studies were gated by quality to synthesize the evidence overall and within categories of dependent variables. This review shows limited or insufficient support for use of this intervention according to one rubric and mixed but sufficient support according to an alternative rubric. The majority of research support targets social/communication skills. The quality review identifies priorities for continued research. The second review is a meta-analysis of 18 single-case research studies on embedding interests of individuals with ASD. The literature suggests that embedding interest for learners with ASD can either be highly beneficial or highly distractible. Effects from moderator categories ranged from neutral to high, with several moderating variables identified. Threats to the internal validity of this meta-analysis are evaluated. Practitioners should take caution when using this intervention with students that display self-stimulatory or ritualistic behaviors when their interests are present. The third study is an original single-case research evaluation of the use of interests as receptive identification targets for children with ASD in the context of an intervention with added components. Overall outcomes demonstrate added effects of the embedded interest condition that correspond to increases in various indicators of engagement for two participants, while a third participant’s data is inconclusive. The outcomes of this study have implications for sequencing educational objectives and adding intervention components to promote skill acquisition in early language learning programs for children with ASD.
Ninci, Jennifer M (2016). Embedded Interest Interventions for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Quality Review, Meta-Analysis, and Single-Case Research Evaluation. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from