Evidence-based practice is not only required by state and federal mandates but a necessity for delivering high quality services to young children with disabilities and their families. I have been investigating evidence-based practice in hopes of supporting parents and practitioners in their quest to understand and utilize evidence-based practice. This page includes samples of the work I've done around the topic, a definition I extracted as a result of a literature review, and an excerpt from Dr. Coleman who has nicely summarized some key considerations for evidence-based practice.

A decision making process that integrates scientifically-based research with family and professional preferences, values, and expertise to inform decisions about how to deliver services or instruction for individual children and their families

(Buysse et al., 2006; Green, 2008; Sackett et al., 2000; Sandall et al., 2005; Snyder, 2006; Whitehurst, 2002)


Defining Evidence-Based Practice for Practitioners and Parents of Young Children with Autism: Answers to Ten Frequently Asked Questions

Sandra Hess Robbins, M.Ed., 2008

Abstract: This paper presents a set of guidelines and addresses unanswered questions to provide parents and practitioners with the tools needed to engage in evidence-based practice. Specifically, the answers to ten frequently asked questions about evidence-based practice for young children with autism are presented...

Evidence-based practice manuscript (DRAFT) 

Evidence Based Practices Rubric.pdf Evidence Based Practices Rubric.pdf
Size : 98.446 Kb
Type : pdf


Grisham-Brown, J., Pretti-Frontczak, K., Hawkins, S., Ruble, L., & Robbins, S.H. (2012, February). Implementing evidence-based practices in early childhood intervention settings with fidelity: Examples and measurement strategies. Panel presentation accepted for the Conference on Research Innovations in Early Intervention: San Diego, CA.

Robbins, S.H.
& Gongola, L. (2008, July). A research synthesis of evidence-based practices for young children with autism. Presentation at the Autism Society of America Conference, Orlando, FL. 

Evidence Based Practices Slides


Evidence-Base Practices

Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.

Senior Scientist

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The term evidence-based is currently being used in a variety of ways.  Generally it is used to show that a body of work has reached a threshold of reliability and/or validity.  Evidence–based practice is not synonymous with research-based practice.  Three things are essential in establishing the evidence–base for a practice:  the research–base; the wisdom of respected practitioners; and the values held by the family and community that will be implementing/receiving the practice.

The research-base for a practice is built over years of looking at how the practice works in a variety of settings, under a variety of circumstances, and with a variety of constituents.  This takes time to build and, for the most part, is reflected in publications that are peer reviewed where colleagues adjudicate the work (i.e. research journals).  A research-base is also tied to a theoretical-base which anchors the practice within a larger body of research.  Thus, the theories are both developed from and continue to inform the evidence–base for a practice.

The wisdom of practitioners, which is equally important in the establishment of a practice as “evidence-based,” is generally seen through the wide adoption of the practice, the acceptance of the practice by key advocates and organizations, the transmission of the practice through standards and guidelines that are accepted by the field, and through publications that are practitioner oriented (e.g. teacher journals).  At this point the practice also influences policies.

Finally, to be useful, the practice must fit well with the values of those who will be using it.  The evidence-base must respond to the core ideas and beliefs held by those who implement the practice because they feel that it addresses their needs.  This is seen through the commitment made to implement the practice and through the inclusion of the practice at all levels of implementation.  Generally this is fostered by the success seen during the early implementation of a practice and, as a result, support for the practice grows – rather than diminishes.

The strongest evidence that a practice will be successful (e.g. will work as intended to improve outcomes) comes when all three of these aspects coincide.   A practice is most likely to be successful when it has a solid theoretical and research-base, practitioners have experience with its success and believe that it will work, and the practice is in harmony with the families values.