Explicit and Systematic Scripted Instructional Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Updated and Extended Review

Sulu M. D. , Martella R. C. , TOPER Ö. , Marchand-Martella N. E. , KIYAK Ü. E.

REVIEW JOURNAL OF AUTISM AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS, 2021 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Review
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s40489-021-00284-5
  • Keywords: Direct instruction, Explicit instruction, Systematic instruction, Autism spectrum disorder, Evidence-based, PROBLEM-SOLVING ABILITY, READING-COMPREHENSION, TEACHING LANGUAGE, CHILDREN, SKILLS, ADOLESCENTS, CURRICULUM, ASD, INDIVIDUALS, ACHIEVEMENT


In a recent review of explicit and systematic, scripted instructional programs for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Plavnick et al. (Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2, 55-66, 2015) found that only 1 of 9 studies met all eight quality indicators outlined by Horner et al. (Exceptional Children, 71(2), 165-179, 2005). These authors made four recommendations to establish explicit, systematic, and scripted instructional programs (ESS) as evidence based. The aim of this systematic review was to replicate and extend the Plavnick et al. findings. In the current review, 9 articles published between 2013 and 2020 in peer-reviewed journals were found that met the following inclusion criteria: at least one of the participants had to be diagnosed with ASD and the independent variable had to be a published, explicit, and systematic scripted instructional program. Articles were analyzed based on (a) their specific attributes; (b) their quality based on the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Standards for Evidence-Based Practices in Special Education (Cook et al., Remedial and Special Education, 36(4), 220-234, 2015); and (c) the improvements, if any, in the research on the problem areas outlined by Plavnick et al. in the areas of lesson completion/program information, measures, description of participant characteristics, and involvement of parents or school personnel as instructors. Results showed (a) that the age range of the participants was from 4 to 17 years, most studies used researcher-developed assessments or assessments within the program, the most frequently used program was Language for Learning, instructional sessions lasted from 10 min to 1.5 h over 4 weeks to 2 academic years, and the most frequently used research design was single-case; (b) 3 of 9 studies met CEC quality indicators with weakness in program implementation and/or design features; and (c) compared to Plavnick et al., results showed improvements in providing information on program implementation but a continued failure to implement all lessons, a continuation of inadequate and/or infrequent measures, improvements in providing participant characteristics information, and greater involvement of school (or clinic) personnel as instructors in program implementation. Results are discussed along with recommendations.