Behavioural and Developmental Interventions and Autism


Father playing with childBehavioural interventions are designed to encourage appropriate behaviour (such as getting dressed or talking to other people) and to discourage inappropriate behaviour (such as self harm or aggression towards others). Therapists, teachers and/or parents break down the desired behaviours into small, achievable tasks which are then taught in a very structured manner.

Developmental interventions are designed to target key developmental areas within the individual rather than his or her outward behaviours. Therapists, teachers and/or parents work with the individual's own interests or actions to slowly build engagement, interaction, communication, affection, and then specific skills such as logical reasoning, symbolic thinking etc.

In practice, many interventions (especially combined/multi-component approaches such as the National Autistic Society's 'EarlyBird Programme' or the Early Start Denver Model) include both behavioural and developmental elements. Many specific techniques (such as modelling , that is, demonstrating desirable behaviour, and reinforcing, that is, praising desirable behaviour) are also used within both behavioural and developmental interventions. And many of these approaches and techniques are used within Educational Interventions.


Some behavioural and developmental  interventions (such as some forms of early intensive behavioural intervention) have some supporting research evidence. Less evidence exists for the other interventions in this section

Risks and safety

No risks are known for most behavioural and developmental interventions.

Specific interventions

We have categorised behavioural and developmental interventions as follows (although there are many other ways in which they can be categorised and many individual interventions will fall under more than one of the following categories).

See also: Parent Training and Support Programmes - such as the Barnardo's Cygnet programme, the NAS EarlyBird programmes, portage.

Related Pages

Related Glossaries

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27 May 2022