Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology: School Psychology

First Advisor

Corinne Zimmerman


Previous research has identified many interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Some of these interventions are evidence-based; others are not. However, previous research has also found that people select interventions for their children with ASD based on several factors other than the evidence base. Other research has found that the language used when describing interventions also influences people’s perceptions of them. The current study examined several factors that may influence how people evaluate two widely used ASD interventions: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Sensory Integration (SI). ABA is an evidence-based intervention, but SI does not have any empirical support. The type of language (i.e., jargon) used to describe these two interventions was experimentally manipulated using a vignette paradigm. Based on the results of a pilot study, order of presentation was also examined as a manipulated factor that influences evaluations of interventions. Participants rated the interventions described in the vignettes with respect to (a) effectiveness, (b) credibility (c) likelihood of implementation, (d) perceived ease of implementation, and (e) likelihood of recommending in the future. Additionally, I examined whether experience with ASD and perceptions of ASD influenced ratings about these two interventions. Participants read a vignette endorsing ABA or SI described with or without technical language, answered questions about the vignette and intervention, then did the same for the second intervention. They also completed measures of their experience with ASD and their perceptions of ASD as a disorder. Although participants rated interventions described without jargon more favorably, particularly when ABA was used describing jargon and SI was described without jargon, experience did not affect participants’ ratings of the interventions. The order in which participants read about the interventions was important. Participants rated the interventions they read about first more favorably and were more likely to select them when presented with a forced-choice question regarding which intervention they would pick if their child or a close friend’s child had ASD. Participants’ perceptions of ASD as a disorder did not affect their ratings of the interventions. In general, participants favored interventions described without jargon. Additionally, they preferred the intervention they read about first. As such, practitioners might be able to improve perceptions of evidence-based ASD interventions by ensuring people learn about them first and describing them in non-technical language.

KEYWORDS: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Interventions, Jargon, Technical Language, Applied Behavior Analysis, Sensory Integration, Efficacy


Imported from ProQuest Reiher_ilstu_0092E_11243.pdf


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