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Educating Children with Autism
to interact socially. The Pivotal Response Model takes the position that inclusion is most easily accomplished when children are in preschool because this is the period when academic demands are lowest (Koegel et al., 1999a). Although the Individualized Support Program is philosophically committed to inclusive education, the reality of very limited inclusion options for children with autistic spectrum disorders leads to a pragmatic approach of providing intervention in the most natural settings available.
Play Play skills are closely related to both social and communication domains, and the ten models vary considerably in how play is addressed. Thus, play is a major emphasis of the Denver approach (Rogers and Lewis, 1988). Teaching in the course of play activities is also intrinsic to the models that primarily use incidental teaching or other naturalistic instructional procedures (i.e., Individualized Support Program, LEAP, and Walden), and inclusive programs are most likely to target creative or interactive play with peers (McGee et al., 1992; Odom and Strain, 1984). In fact, most programs target goals related to recreation (e.g., Pivotal Response Training [Koegel et al., 1999a]) and leisure skills (e.g., Children’s Unit [Romanczyk et al., 2000]), which, for young children, involve toy play. A review of published curriculum materials and program descriptions suggests that basic functional play skills (such as stacking rings and putting pegs in a pegboard) are routine goals at the Children’s Unit, Douglass, TEACCH, and the Young Autism Project.
Cognitive and Academic Skills Virtually all of the programs teach cognitive skills, although the distribution of treatment time to this area varies considerably. Cognitive growth is a major emphasis of the Denver, Douglass, TEACCH, and Young Autism Project models. Although cognitive abilities tend not to be a major curriculum priority in programs that focus on peer interaction skills (i.e., LEAP, Pivotal Response Model, and Walden), skills such as mathematics, reading, and writing are taught because academic preparation may help secure a child’s placement in a regular kindergarten classroom (Koegel et al., 1999a).
Self-Help The behavioral programs use an array of procedures of demonstrated efficacy in teaching self-help skills. The developmental programs tend to place less emphasis on self-help skills, probably because self-help skills are not viewed as core autism deficits. Although there are relatively few published studies on self-help skills that are specific to young children with autism, virtually all of the selected model programs were found to track the development of independent daily living skills.