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Social Validity

Article: Social Validity of Evidence-Based Practices and Emerging Interventions in Autism. By Callahan and others. In Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 2017, 32(3).

A meta-analysis examining a meta-research question. The authors point out that there are a good number of empirically supported techniques for addressing issues related autism, and now it is time to start examining the utility of these techniques. They make a case for researchers to move beyond the "can we get it to work" argument and add in a "will people actually use it" question. Social validity asks if people will actually use an intervention that has been demonstrated to be useful.

It is hard not to personalize this as this was the main psychosocial crisis of my gradschool years: Theoretical vs. Applied. I never fit nicely into either camp, so I was left to fend for myself much of the time. I liked the certainty and protection of Empirically Supported Techniques, but found them cumbersome, formulaic and inflexible. I suspect that a lot of the competent professionals you meet in school settings, clinics, or independent practice have struggled with this same conundrum of how to take something that is supported by research and make it useful when actually doing direct service. Social validity seems like a systematic way of saying, "Sure it works in the laboratory, but can people actually use it in the real world?"

Consequently, I would like to point out that the authors point out that this debate has been going on at least since the 70s (see Kazdin, 1977).

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