- Academic Supports for College Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Advice from Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Teachers Regarding Literacy Instruction
- Advice for Peer Tutors
- Applying the Ziggurat and CAPS Model in Your School District
- Aspects of Support for Learning
- A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
- Can Schedule Usage Training Include Elements of Literacy Instruction?
- Clean Up Your Act! Creating an Organized Classroom Environment for Students on the Spectrum.
- Change is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
- Classroom Choreography: The Art of Scheduling Staff and Students
- Complexities of Instructional Support
- Creating a Circle of Support
- Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
- Developing Long Term Relationships Between School and Parents
- Early Intervention for Young Children on the Autism spectrum: Parent’s Perspective
- Educating Students with Autism: Are There Differences in Placement?
- Establishing Long Term Goals: What Are We Hoping to Achieve
- For General Education Teachers: Helpful Questions to Ask About Students with ASD
- Get Engaged: Designing Instructional Activities to Help Students Stay On-Task
- "Ham It Up and Get It Cookin!!" Thoughts From Dr. Greenspan
- Home-School Communication
- I Can Do It Myself Using Work Systems to Build Independence
- “I Wake Up for MY Dream!” Personal Futures Planning Circles of Support, MAPS and PATH
- Life After High School...So Now What
- Lovaas Revisited: Should We Have Ever Left?
- Making the Most of Morning Meeting
- Motivating Students Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Moving from Preschool to Kindergarten: Planning for a Successful Transition and New Relationships
- Peer Support Programs
- Promoting the Educational Success of Students with Autism: The Role of the Parent-Staff Relationship
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels
- Practical Steps to Writing Individualized Education Program (IEP) Goals: And Writing Them Well
- Practical Recommendations for Utilizing a Range of Instructional Approaches in General Education Settings
- Recognizing Different Types of Readers with ASD
- Reframing Our Thinking and Getting to Know the Child
- Restricted Repertoires in Autism and What We Can Do About It
- School Cultures that Support Students Across the Autism Spectrum
- Service Learning: Something to Think About
- Supporting Staff Using Coaching Model
- Supporting Students with Asperger's Syndrome
- Teaching Students Who Are Low-Functioning: Who Are They and What Should We Teach?
- Theory of Mind in Autism: Development, Implications, and Intervention
- There is No Place Called Inclusion
- The Road to Post-Secondary Education: Questions to Consider
- Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism
- Tips to Consider When Including a Student with ASD in Art, Music, or Physical Education
- Transition: Preparing for a Lifetime
- Transition to Middle School
- Transition Time: Helping Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Move Successfully from One Activity to Another
- Understanding the Design and Power of a Personal Schedule
- Using Visual Schedules: A Guide for Parents
- Who Are We Working for Anyway? Avoiding Personal Agendas at Meetings to Better Support Individuals Across the Autism Spectrum
- Structured Teaching Strategies: A Series
- Growing Up Together
- How to Open A Combination Lock/Locker
- Supporting Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders Through Postsecondary Transition
- Curriculum Materials and Programs for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
- Implementation and Effectiveness of Using Video Self-Modeling with Students with ASD
- Video Self-Modeling How To and Examples
- Linking Theories to Practice: Exploring Theory of Mind, Weak Central Cohesion, and Executive Functioning in ASD
Critical Features of Early Intervention: Merging Best Practices
Contributed by Steve Buckmann
Educational services continually evolve as new theory and research emerge and are translated into policy and practice. This is certainly the case in early intervention for children with autism and related pervasive developmental disorders (PDD). The past decade has brought not only expanded educational services and options for young children, but more focus on answering a basic question: "What are the critical features of early intervention for children with autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and other pervasive developmental disorders?".
As a precursor to addressing this question, several important points should be highlighted:
- Early intervention research for children with autism spectrum disorders has focused on children between the ages of 3 and 5. However, as children are diagnosed at increasingly earlier ages, the focus will expand to include these children as well.
- Though there are a range of model demonstration programs for young children with autism spectrum disorders that have produced impressive educational results, it is not possible to "cross compare" these programs meaningfully due to differences in evaluation strategies and children served. According to Prizant and Rubin (1999), "No studies directly compare the effectiveness of two or more approaches by use of randomly assigned, matched control samples, which would be required to make direct comparisons."
- Model demonstration and research programs have many common elements that cut across program philosophies and have formed the basis for an emerging consensus of critical features in early intervention.
- There is generally more professional agreement regarding essential features of intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders than there is regarding the "best" specific program.
Critical features of early intervention for children with autism spectrum disorders include the following:
- Curriculum which focuses on a child's ability to attend to relevant aspects of his/her environment; develop verbal and motor imitation skills; develop language comprehension and functional communication; learn appropriate toy play skills; and develop social interaction with non- disabled peers (Dawson and Osterling, 1997).
- Family education and training, with an emphasis on enhancing parental skill in promoting the child's communication competence (Dunlap and Fox, 1996).
- A focus on generalization and maintenance of learned skills (Horner, Dunlap and Koegel, 1988). Much of the criticism directed toward applied behavior analysis centers on the potential for a lack of transfer of training from 1:1 instructional settings to more typical settings encountered in daily life. Approaches such as pivotal response training (Koegel and Koegel, 1995) and incidental teaching (McGee et. al, 1999) attempt to address this issue.
- Use of functional behavioral assessment procedures to identify situations associated with problem behavior as well as the child's behavioral intent in those situations as a precursor to modifying instructional situations and teaching alternative behaviors which can successfully replace the problem behavior (Carr et. al, 1994).
- Development of educational settings which capitalize on the natural tendency of individuals with autism spectrum disorders to respond positively to visual structure, routines, schedules, and predictability (Mesibov and Schopler, 1994).
- Sufficient intensity and frequency. In a review of eight model demonstration programs conducted by Dawson and Osterling (1997), the number of hours of center-based programming ranged from 20-40 hours weekly. In addition, most of these programs involved either an in-home training component directed by professional staff which complimented center-based programming or a family training component which increased the ability of parents to serve as an additional source of on-going intervention.
Effective education for young children with autism spectrum disorders is an achievable goal. However, it will require that sufficiently individualized and intensive instructional opportunities be delivered over time in a well coordinated manner by both educators and family members.
The sources listed at the end of this article are an excellent starting point in developing a knowledge base about educational practices for children with autism spectrum disorders. Additional information can be accessed from the Indiana Resource Center for Autism.
Carr, E.G., Levin, L., McConnachie, G., Carlson, J.I., Keep, D.C., & Smith, C.E. (1994). Communication-based intervention for problem behavior: A user's guide for producing positive change. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
Dawson, G., & Sterling, J. (1997). Early intervention in autism. In M.J. Guralnick (Ed.), The effectiveness of early intervention (pp. 307-326). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Dunlap, G., & Fox, L. (1996). Early intervention and serious problem behavior: A comprehensive approach. In L.K. Koegel, R.L. Koegel, & G. Dunlap (Eds.), Positive behavioral support: Including people with difficult behavior in the community (pp. 31-50). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
Horner, R.H., Dunlap, G., & Koegel, R.L. (1998). Generalization and maintenance: Life-style changes in applied settings. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
Koegel, R.L. & Koegel, L.K. (1995) Teaching children with autism: Strategies for initiating positive interactions and improving learning outcomes. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
McGee, G.G., Morrier, M.J., & Daly, T. (1999). An incidental approach to early intervention for toddlers with autism. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(3), 133-146.
Prizant, B.M., & Rubin, E. (1999). Contemporary issues in interventions for autism spectrum disorders: A commentary. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(3), 199-208.
Mesibov, G.B., Schopler, E., & Hearsey, K.A. (1994). Structured teaching. In E. Schopler & G.B. Mesibov (Eds.), Behavioral issues in autism (pp. 195- 207). New York, NY: Plenum Press.
Buckman, S. (2000). Critical features of early intervention: Merging best practices. The Reporter, 5(2), 13.