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Educating Children with Autism
Douglass Developmental Center at Rutgers University The center opened in 1972 to serve older children with autism; the preschool programs were added in 1987. Douglass now has a continuum of three programs that serve young children with autistic spectrum disorders, including an intensive home-based intervention, a small-group segregated preschool, and an integrated preschool. The curriculum is developmentally sequenced and uses applied behavior analysis techniques, beginning with discrete-trial formats and shifting across the continuum to more naturalistic procedures. Initial instruction is focused on teaching compliance, cognitive and communication skills, rudimentary social skills, and toilet training, as well as on the elimination of serious behavior problems. The small-group classroom emphasizes communication, cognitive skills, and self-help skills; social intervention begins in the form of interactive play with teachers. The emphasis in the integrated classroom is on communication, socialization, and pre-academic skills (Harris et al., 2000).
Individualized Support Program at the University of South Florida atTampa A parent-training program developed in West Virginia served as the predecessor of this model, which started in its current form in 1987. The Individualized Support Program is implemented in children’s homes and community settings during a relatively short period of intensive assistance and ongoing follow-up. The program is intended to be adjunctive to ongoing, daily, special educational services delivered in preschool and by other clinical providers. Specifically, it is oriented toward helping families gain the knowledge and skills needed to solve problems, as well as the competence and confidence needed to continue effective intervention and advocacy over the course of their children’s educational history. Essential elements of the model include: development of functional communication skills, facilitation of the child’s participation in socially inclusive environments, and multifaceted family support (Dunlap and Fox, 1999a, 1999b).
Learning Experiences, an Alternative Program for Preschoolers and theirParents (LEAP) Preschool at the University of Colorado School ofEducation LEAP opened in 1982 as a federally funded demonstration program and soon after incorporated into the Early Childhood Intervention Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh. In recent years, the original classrooms continue to operate in Pittsburgh, but new LEAP classrooms are now being developed in the Denver Public School System. LEAP includes both a preschool program and a behavioral skill training program for parents, as well as national outreach activities. LEAP was one of the first programs in the country to include children with autism with typical children, and the curriculum is well-known for its peer-mediated social skill interventions. An individu-