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Educating Children with Autism
contrast, a toilet-training manual written for parents of typical children (Azrin and Foxx, 1974) can be adapted relatively easily for use with children with autism (McGee et al., 1994) and may be more successful.
Peer tutoring was shown to be effective in teaching community living skills to two boys with autism, aged 5 and 8 years, who lived in a residential school (Blew et al., 1985). Single-subject, multiple baseline designs were used to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment components across intervention settings. Skills targeted included buying ice cream at a restaurant, checking out a book at the library, buying an item at the store, and crossing the street. Modeling by typical peers was not sufficient to produce acquisition, but both boys learned all target skills when the peers provided direct instruction.
Physical exercise has been found to decrease self-stimulatory behavior in children with autism, as well as to yield collateral changes in appropriate ball play, academic responding, on-task behavior, and ratings of general interest in school activities (Kern et al., 1982). With physician approval for each of three children (ranging in age from 4 to 7 years, plus three older children/adolescents), mildly strenuous jogging sessions were begun at about 5 minutes per day and gradually increased to 20 minutes per day. In a follow-up study with three children with autism, one of whom was age 7 (and two who were 9), it was shown that mild exercise (e.g., playing ball) had virtually no impact on self-stimulatory behavior (Kern et al., 1984), but positive benefits were replicated in conditions of vigorous physical exercise.
An assessment of the grooming of children and adolescents with autism may have some application for either skill assessment or for measuring the quality of care provided to children with autism. Quality of care was the central focus of a multiple baseline study of 12 children with autism, and the single-subject multiple baseline was nested within multiple baselines across residential settings (McClannahan et al., 1990). Thus, a grooming checklist (e.g., fingernails clean, hands washed, clothing unstained, etc.) was administered to children residing in one large residential placement, and major improvements were documented when these children were transitioned into community-based group homes that provided more individualized care. Further, when feedback on grooming details was regularly provided to group home teaching parents, the children’s appearance improved to a level similar to that of children with autism who lived at home with their families. Applications to young children with autism would likely involve both skill building and assistance to parents in managing the responsibilities of caring for their children with autism. Appearance becomes a practical concern as more and more children with autism are gaining access to inclusion with typical peers, and attractiveness may influence their receipt of social bids.
When adaptive skills are broadly defined, there are a number of ap-