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Educating Children with Autism
Criteria for Selection of Programs
In order to select representative programs objectively, the committee established a set of criteria that relied on the availability of recently published program descriptions (Harris and Handleman, 1994; Handleman and Harris, 2000) and existing reviews of model programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders (Dawson and Osterling, 1997; Rogers, 1998). The committee also reviewed research and program descriptions in recent special issues on autistic spectrum disorders of professional journals, including Infants and Young Children (Neisworth and Bagnato, 1999), School Psychology Review (Harrison, 1999), and The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (Brown and Bambara, 1999). Programs that had received federal funding for peer-reviewed grants by the National Institutes of Health and by the U.S. Department of Education were also included. Model programs that provided invited representation in the Autistic Spectrum Disorders Forum Workgroup of the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Systems were also included.
A simple frequency count was conducted of the number of times each program was described in these sources. The programs selected were cited and described as program models between three and nine times in the designated resources. Excluded from the count were publications of isolated procedures rather than overall program descriptions. For example, references to an incidental teaching or discrete-trial procedure were not counted as a reference to a specific program model. However, references to a model by either title or investigator(s) were counted.
These criteria yielded a total of 12 programs, all in the United States. The committee sent an invitation to the director or developer of each, asking for program description materials and peer-reviewed data that they deemed best represented their model. Two of the programs did not respond, leaving ten programs for the committee’s review.
Brief Overview of Programs
Most of the ten representative models selected began as research programs in which empirically demonstrated strategies for addressing specific problems were gradually packaged as components of overall clinical models. However, there have been different approaches to the development of these models.
All ten of the models individualize programming around the needs of particular children, and intervention regimens are designed to be implemented in a flexible manner. Essential differences in program design pertain to whether the curriculum is aimed at addressing some or all of a child’s needs and whether the program staff provide direct service or serve as consultants to external providers. The following description of