National Institutes of Health Autism Research Centers. Three of the programs are components of statewide autism centers (i.e., the Individualized Support Program in Florida, TEACCH in North Carolina, and Walden in Georgia), and two other preschools (Douglas Disabilities Developmental Center and the Children’s Unit) are the early childhood components of programs that serve people with autism through adulthood. Three programs operate out of university-based clinics, although a significant portion of the interventions take place in homes and community settings (i.e., Developmental Intervention Model, Pivotal Response Training, and the Young Autism Project). The LEAP, TEACCH, and Denver programs are carried out primarily in public schools; all programs provide consultation or technical assistance to schools serving participating children, either concurrently or following early intervention.
Many of the selected programs were developed while funded with extramural research support. At least seven of the programs’ directors have or have had funding from the U.S. Department of Education (Dunlap and Fox, the Koegels, Lovaas, McGee, Rogers, Schopler, and Strain). Five of these program directors have had research funding from the National Institutes of Health (Koegel, Lovaas, Rogers, Schopler, and Strain). In addition, virtually all have had state funding, either directly (e.g., Children’s Unit, Douglass, TEACCH) or through child or school district tuitions.
This review focuses on the most recently published practices of each model; it should be acknowledged that each of these programs has undergone considerable evolution over the years. Over the past two decades, the development of preschool programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders has influenced and been influenced by major shifts in intervention approaches (Dunlap and Robbins, 1991). Early behavioral interventions often targeted behavior reduction as a major goal, and some used aversive procedures. However, very few programs for young children currently report planned use of aversive stimuli as punishments. Another trend includes broadened conceptualizations of family involvement, which has expanded from simple participation in parent training to preparation for parental roles as collaborators, advocates, and recipients of family support. There has also been a shift toward instruction in more natural environments, and there has been a growing emphasis on inclusion of children with autism with typically developing peers. For example, virtually all model programs list inclusion among typical peers as a major emphasis of their program, either as a goal or as a strategy for promoting social learning (Handleman and Harris, 2000; Harris and Handleman, 1994). In the past few years, there has been an increased