problem behaviors. More rigorous evaluation of existing medications and development of new medications based on burgeoning knowledge of the neuroscience of autism is likely to add new tools to the armamentarium.
IDEA requires benefits from interventions, presumes in favor of positive interventions, disallows those that do not produce benefits, and authorizes a wide range of beneficial interventions without preferring any particular ones. Although the interventions discussed in this chapter have shown evidence of accelerating the child’s development and reducing behavior problems, none attains the strict research standards for replicated, randomly assigned, controlled, long-term comparison studies (Bristol et al., 1996).
Education is at heart an enterprise that must be informed by science, and it should stimulate hypotheses, case studies, and descriptive research to identify promising approaches for further rigorous study. As Greenspan (1999) points out, researchers, clinical practitioners, and consumers will need to work together to refine existing methods and develop new approaches. Joint efforts of federal, state, and local agencies will be needed to stimulate and fund longitudinal sites sharing common measures and a common database to address the daunting questions of which treatments are most effective for reducing behavior problems for which children. In the meantime, researchers, educators, and parents should not ignore testable, not yet fully assessed methods or measures that hold promise for reducing problem behaviors in children with autistic spectrum disorders. IDEA sets up perhaps the most practical and in some ways the most difficult challenge—that of generating a functional analysis of each child’s behavior to fashion an individualized program that will enable the child to progress and to participate in the academic and social life of family, school, and community.