Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of ABA Content on IQ Gains in Children with Autism

  • Mark R. DixonEmail author
  • Dana Paliliunas
  • Becky F. Barron
  • Ayla M. Schmick
  • Caleb R. Stanley
Original Paper


The present study examined the content of applied behavior analytic therapy (ABA therapy) on skill acquisition and intelligence test scores of twenty-eight children with autism and related disabilities. Using a randomized controlled trial, we compared (a) traditional ABA consisting of verbal behavior techniques developed by Skinner (Verbal behavior, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1957), (b) comprehensive ABA which added techniques post-Skinner’s theory of language, and (c) waitlist control. Results obtained indicated that even though skill acquisition improved equally across both intervention groups compared to the control, highest intelligence score changes were shown for participants in the comprehensive ABA group (F: 2, 24 = 9.198, p = 0.001). With increasing emphasis on client outcomes, the present data suggest that when hours of intervention are kept constant, ABA service providers may be at an advantage by incorporating techniques that are typically considered beyond the traditional ABA ideas of Skinner’s account of language development.


Language acquisition Relational frame theory Verbal behavior therapy PEAK 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

First author receives small royalties from sales of the PEAK curriculum. Remaining authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent and assent were obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Human and Animal Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark R. Dixon
    • 1
    Email author
  • Dana Paliliunas
    • 1
  • Becky F. Barron
    • 1
  • Ayla M. Schmick
    • 1
  • Caleb R. Stanley
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavior Analysis and Therapy ProgramSouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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