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Educating Children with Autism
hooks, and cubbies), are also used by many programs of both behavioral and developmental orientation to support children with autistic spectrum disorders in group situations. Group instruction provides an important environment for maintenance, generalization, and normalization of skills that may have first been taught individually.
THE USE OF PEERS AS INSTRUCTORS
Studies have demonstrated that interactions established between children with autism and adults do not easily generalize to peer partners. However, typical peers have been shown to be effective intervention agents for young children with autism. In these approaches, the peers are taught particular strategies for eliciting social, play, and communicative responses from a young child with autism. Most of these procedures have also been demonstrated to be effective when used in an inclusive setting, in which most of the children present are typically developing (Goldstein et al., 1992; Strain et al., 1977, 1979; Oke and Schreibman, 1990; McGee et al., 1992; Odom and Strain, 1986). However, it is important to note that, though these approaches are intended to be used in inclusive settings, they require planning and implementation by well-trained staff, as they would in any setting.
Variables found to be important in maintenance and generalization include characteristics of the peers, methods of prompting and reinforcing peers, fading reinforcers, ages of children, and characteristics of the setting, as well as the use of multiple peer trainers (Brady et al., 1987; Sainato et al., 1992). Self-monitoring systems for the peers have also been used successfully (Strain et al., 1994). These interventions have been found to be most powerful when delivered in inclusive preschools, but they have also been used successfully by parents and siblings in homes (Strain and Danko, 1995; Strain et al., 1994; parent training is discussed in detail in Chapter 3). These highly effective peer-mediation approaches are complex to deliver, requiring socially skilled typical peers and precise adult control in training peers, managing and fading reinforcement, and monitoring ongoing child interaction data. However, the approach is manualized and well described in many publications (Danko et al., 1998).
THE ROLES OF SELECTED DISCIPLINES
Provision of evaluation and treatment by occupational, physical, and speech and language therapists is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act when speech and language and motor deficits are impeding a child’s educational progress. The knowledge held by speech and language therapists and motor therapists is crucial for evaluating the needs of young children with autistic spectrum disorders and developing