At the request of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the National Research Council formed the Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism and charged the committee to integrate the scientific, theoretical, and policy literature and create a framework for evaluating the scientific evidence concerning the effects and features of educational interventions for young children with autism. The primary focus of the charge was early intervention, preschool, and school programs designed for children with autism from birth to age 8. The charge included specific suggestions to examine several issues pertaining to education of children with autism: early intervention, diagnosis and classification, the rights of children with autism under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, inclusion, and assistive technology.
The committee’s key conclusions and recommendations are summarized below, organized by the significant issues relevant to educational interventions for young children with autistic spectrum disorders. Each section begins with the key questions the committee addressed. The final chapter of this report presents the committee’s complete conclusions and recommendations.
What is the role of diagnosis, classification, and assessment in providing appropriate educational services to young children with autistic spectrum disorders? Are the specific deficits associated with a diagnosis or educational classification of autistic spectrum disorder important to planning and implementing educational interventions?
Autistic spectrum disorders vary in severity of symptoms, age of onset, and the presence of various features, such as mental retardation and specific language delay. The manifestations of autistic spectrum disorders can differ considerably across children and within an individual child over time. Even though there are strong and consistent commonalities, especially in social deficits, there is no single behavior that is always typical of autism or any of the autistic spectrum disorders and no behavior that would automatically exclude an individual child from diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder. Because of the continuity across autistic spectrum disorders, this report addresses both autistic disorder specifically (referring to the more narrowly defined syndrome) and autistic spectrum disorder, (including autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified [PDD-NOS], Asperger’s Disorder, and