ing approach incorporated the technical procedures generated by behavior analysis research into the environmental contexts in which social and communication behaviors typically occur for children without disabilities (McGee et al., 1997, 1999). Both the Individualized Support Program (Dunlap and Fox, 1999b) and the pivotal response model have emphasized the use of naturalistic procedures as a method to reduce stress on families.

Conceptual Differences and Practical Similarities

The conceptual differences between developmental and behavioral approaches to intervention are real, yet the gaps in practice appear to be narrowing. Developmental researchers may criticize behavioral approaches for failure to target the specific deficits associated with autistic spectrum disorders (Rogers et al., 1986), and it has been argued that this failure to select target skills within a meaningful developmental framework results in isolated skills that are difficult to transfer to other situations and skills (Rogers and Lewis, 1988). Behaviorists counter that the irregularity of skill development in children with autistic spectrum disorders decreases the relevance of careful adherence to normal developmental sequencing (Anderson and Romanczyk, 1999). However, developmental approaches to autistic spectrum disorders treatment have incorporated methods that recognize the needs of children with autistic spectrum disorders for high levels of structure, adult attention, and consistency. At the same time, behavioral interventions are increasingly being used to address complex social and communication goals in normal environmental settings.


Common elements among the early intervention models presented here include specific curriculum content, highly supportive teaching environments and generalization strategies, predictable routines, use of a functional approach to problem behaviors, carefully planned transitions across intervention settings, and active family involvement (Dawson and Osterling, 1997). Additional similarities include highly trained staff, adequate resources, and supervisory and review mechanisms (Anderson and Romanczyk, 1999). All ten model programs/approaches recognize the importance of individualizing interventions in a manner that meets the needs of each child and family. The similarities and range of variability of features across the models are summarized in Table 12–1 and discussed below.

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