Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis

Note: The Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis program was not responsive to the CEBC's inquiry. The following information was obtained from publicly available sources.

About This Program

Target Population: Children between the ages of two and eight who have developmental delays

Program Overview

The Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis is a behavioral treatment model typically starts with children between the ages of two and eight who have developmental delays. Children typically transition to different services as they progress through elementary school and no later than the age of twelve. While treatment is always based on the principles of applied behavior analysis, its implementation varies based on a child's unique needs.

The Lovaas Model was created as a comprehensive, integrated program in which skills complement and build upon each other. The intervention progresses systematically through stages of learning and emphasizes individualization of curriculum based on each child's strengths and weaknesses.

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Manuals and Training

Publicly available information indicates there is a manual that describes how to deliver this program, and there is some training available for this program.
See contact info below.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young autistic children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55(1), 3–9. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.55.1.3

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 59

Population:

  • Age — Children: Less than 46 months; Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: Not specified; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were children with a diagnosis of autism.

Location/Institution: Not specified

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to report the results of behavior modification treatment [now called the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis] for two groups of similarly constituted, young autistic children. Participants were assigned to one of two treatment groups: an intensive-treatment experimental Lovaas Model group and a minimal-treatment control Lovaas Model group. A third control group was added that did not receive the Lovaas Model method and had no contact with the project. Measures utilized include the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale, the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, the Gesell Infant Development Scale, the Vineland Social Maturity Scale, video-taped recordings of subject’s free-play behavior, and a parent interview. Results indicate follow-up data from the long-term intensive Lovaas Model group showed that 47% achieved normal intellectual and educational functioning, with normal-range IQ scores and successful first grade performance in public schools. Another 40% were mildly retarded and assigned to special classes for the language delayed, and only 10% were profoundly retarded and assigned to classes for the autistic/retarded. In contrast, only 2% of the control group children achieved normal educational and intellectual functioning; 45% were mildly retarded and placed in language-delayed classes, and 53% were severely retarded and placed in autistic/retarded classes. Limitations include lack of randomization, lack of follow-up, the unlikeliness that a therapist or investigator could replicate the treatment program for the experimental group without prior extensive theoretical and supervised practical experience, generalization of the data to older autistic children, and many treatment variables are left unexplored, such as the effect of normal peers.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Eikeseth, S., Smith, T., Jahr, E., & Eldevik, S. (2002). Intensive behavioral treatment at school for 4- to 7-year-old children with autism: A 1-year comparison controlled study. Behavior Modification, 26(1), 49–68. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445502026001004 

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 25

Population:

  • Age — Children: 4–7 years; Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: Not specified; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were children with autism.

Location/Institution: Counties of Akershus and Vestfold, Norway

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to evaluate 1 year of intensive treatment for children with autism. Participants were assigned to either behavioral treatment [now called the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis] (n = 13) or eclectic treatment (n = 12). The two treatment groups received similar amounts of treatment (Mean = 28.52 hours per week at the child’s school). Measures utilized include the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence–Revised, (WPPSI-R) or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children–Revised (WISC-R), the Merrill-Palmer Scale of Mental Tests, the Reynell Developmental Language Scales, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Results indicate children in the behavioral treatment group made significantly larger gains on standardized tests than did children in the eclectic treatment group. Results also suggest that some 4- to 7-year-olds may make large gains with intensive behavioral treatment, that such treatment can be successfully implemented in school settings, and that specific aspects of behavioral treatment (not just its intensity) may account for favorable outcomes. Limitations include lack of randomization, lack of follow-up, small sample size, measures that focused more on cognitive than social development, and lower treatment intensity than has been recommended by the developers of the behavioral treatment model used in the study.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Sallows, G. O., & Graupner, T. D. (2005). Intensive behavioral treatment for children with autism: Four-year outcome and predictors. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 110(6), 417–438. https://doi.org/10.1352/0895-8017(2005)110

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 24

Population:

  • Age — Children: 24-42 months; Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 19 Males and 5 Females; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were recruited through local birth to three (special education) programs.

Location/Institution: Wisconsin

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to replicate the parameters of the early intensive behavioral treatment developed at UCLA [now called the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis]. Participants were randomly assigned to a clinic-directed group (Lovaas) or to a parent-directed group that received intensive hours but less supervision. Measures utilized include the Mental Development Index, the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, Second Edition, the Merrill-Palmer Scale of Mental Tests, Reynell Developmental Language Scales, the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence-Revised (WPPSI), the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III), the Leiter-R, the Merrill-Palmer Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, Third Edition (CELF III), the Personality Inventory for Children, the Child Behavior Checklist, the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement, and the Early Learning Measure. Results indicate that the outcome after 4 years of treatment, including cognitive, language, adaptive, social, and academic measures, was similar for both groups. After combining groups, it was found that 48% of all children showed rapid learning, achieved average posttreatment scores, and at age 7, were succeeding in regular education classrooms. Treatment outcome was best predicted by pretreatment imitation, language, and social responsiveness. Limitations include small sample size, lack of follow up, and generalizability due to gender.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Cohen, H., Amerine-Dickens, M., & Smith, T. (2006). Early intensive behavioral treatment: Replication of the UCLA model in a community setting. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 27(2), S145–S155. https://10.1097/00004703-200604002-00013

Type of Study: Pretest-posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 42

Population:

  • Age — Children: 18–42 months; Parents: Not specified
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified; Parents: Not specified
  • Gender — Children: 4:1 Male to Female; Parents: Not specified
  • Status — Participants were children with a primary diagnosis of autistic disorder or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

Location/Institution: Valley Mountain Regional Center (VMRC; Stockton, CA) and the child’s Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA) of residence

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to compare 2 groups: (1) the early intensive behavioral treatment (EIBT) group [now called the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis] and (2) special education classes at local public schools. Measures utilized include the Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised, the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Revised (BSID-R), the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scales of Intelligence, the Reynell Developmental Language Scales, the Merrill-Palmer Scale of Mental Tests, and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales. Results indicate with treatment, the EIBT group obtained significantly higher IQ and adaptive behavior scores than did the comparison group. No difference between groups was found in either language comprehension or nonverbal skill. Six of the 21 EIBT children were fully included into regular education without assistance at Year 3, and 11 others were included with support; in contrast, only 1 comparison child was placed primarily in regular education. Limitations include the EIBT group had more children with autism and fewer with Pervasive Disorder, Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) than did the comparison group, the comparison group received such diverse interventions that a measure of treatment fidelity could not be applied, nonrandomization, small sample size, and lack of follow up. 

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Lovaas, O. I. (2003). Teaching individuals with developmental delays: Basic intervention techniques. Pro-ed.

Contact Information

Scott Wright
Title: Director of the Lovaas Institute
Website: www.lovaas.com
Email:

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: June 2021

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: June 2021