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Educating Children with Autism
tion curriculum is delivered in a one-to-one discrete-trial format, which is implemented by parents and trained therapists who work in a child’s home. The treatment is focused primarily on developing language and early cognitive skills and decreasing excessive rituals, tantrums, and aggressive behaviors. The first year of intervention is aimed at teaching children to respond to basic requests, to imitate, to begin to play with toys, and to interact with their families. During the second year, the focus on teaching language continues; the most recent curriculum descriptions note a shift toward teaching emotion discriminations, pre-academic skills, and observational learning. For children who eventually enter inclusive settings, a paraprofessional assists with participation in regular preschool or kindergarten settings (Smith et al., 2000a).
Walden Early Childhood Programs at the Emory University School ofMedicine The Walden program was developed in 1985 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where the primary function was as a laboratory preschool to accommodate research in incidental teaching. Following relocation to Emory University in Atlanta, toddler and prekindergarten programs were added to complete an early intervention continuum. The classrooms include children with autism with a majority of typical peers. The incidental teaching approach is based on behavioral research, although there are developmental influences on goal selection. There is a toddler program with both center- and home-based components, and initial goals include establishment of sustained engagement, functional verbal language, responsiveness to adults, tolerance and participation with typical peers, and independence in daily living (e.g., toilet training). The preschool is aimed at language expansions and beginning peer interaction training. The prekindergarten emphasizes elaborated peer interactions, academic skills, and conventional school behaviors (McGee et al., 2000).
Irrespective of curriculum content, there are certain organizational similarities in the ten selected programs. For example, all are university-based programs. Four are housed within psychiatry departments (Denver, Developmental Intervention Model, TEACCH, Walden; also formerly LEAP), and four are affiliated with psychology departments (Children’s Unit, Douglass, Pivotal Response Model, Young Autism Project; also formerly Walden). The Individualized Support Program is sponsored by a Department of Child and Family Studies, and LEAP is currently in a Department of Special Education.
Virtually all of these programs are or formerly were a component of a larger autism center. The Denver Model is operated within one of the