fact that many of the early intervention programs place great emphasis on a child’s engagement in learning and social activities as key elements predicting progress. A teacher of a child with autistic spectrum disorders is responsible for identifying the child’s needs, using appropriate curricula to address those needs, selecting appropriate methods to teach that curricula, and ensuring engagement in these activities despite the child’s limited social awareness. A teacher cannot acquire the skills to do this from academic classes or didactic presentations alone. In addition to an infrastructure and ongoing team to help in this process, opportunities to learn from and work with models of working classrooms and effective teachers are crucial for the new teacher of children with autistic spectrum disorders.
The importance of the increasing use of inclusion as an educational strategy makes some form of instruction for general educators or childcare workers also important. Such special instruction may take a form different from that of preparation of special education teachers, who might be expected to encounter a larger number of different children with autistic spectrum disorders in their careers. Issues such as the quick availability of support teams to provide in-service training and workshops for general educators are most relevant for this population. Availability of consultation about specific children is also critical.
One of the potential resources for providing special services for children with autism is the paraprofessional. Pickett (1996) has reported that there are 280,000 paraeducators who work in special education settings. Given the personnel shortages that seem likely to continue into the future, some attempt to include paraeducators within educational intervention programs for children with autism seems highly desirable (French, 1997; Skelton, 1997). Key issues are how these paraprofessionals are to be prepared and what roles they are to play in educational programs. OSEP has provided funds to the National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals at the City University of New York to develop guidelines for paraeducator roles and responsibilities, as well as to develop model standards for their training and supervision. Such standards could be helpful as a guide for training paraprofessionals and for alerting other professionals to their important supervisory responsibilities for such personnel.
One systematic use of paraprofessionals can be seen in the Young Autism Project at UCLA. This program uses a behavioral intervention curriculum that is designed to be delivered in a one-to-one, discrete trial format implemented by parents and trained college student therapists working in a child’s home. Brief training is provided to the student therapists before they begin, and ongoing supervision is an integral part of the treatment structure. This strategy includes programming that differs from most early interventions in being both home-based and very intensive. Thus, children receive extensive treatment in situations where