and Development Project, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Child Care Study). The current coordination of the biomedical grants in autism funded by the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in the Collaborative Program for Excellence in Autism (CPEA), and efforts to coordinate genetics studies funded by many different agencies, may represent models for such a project.

Qualitative Research

We have not reviewed qualitative or ethnographic research studies. Although such studies may add to the knowledge about program features and outcomes for young children with autistic spectrum disorders (Schwartz et al., 1998), the research literature is quite small and does not contain systematic examinations of programwide effects for young children and families. Qualitative and ethnographic research does hold promise for uncovering important features in educational interventions programs that affect the development of young children with autistic spectrum disorders and their families.


There is an active research literature on the developmental characteristics, diagnostic criteria, comprehensive treatment programs, and individual intervention strategies for young children with autistic spectrum disorders. The literature provides a tentative but important basis on which to design intervention strategies and decisions about treatment options for individual children. However, there are concerns about methodological issues. Considering these concerns, funding agencies and professional journals should require minimal standards in design and description of intervention research studies. These studies should include the following information: participants’ chronological age, developmental assessment data (including verbal and nonverbal levels of performance), standardized diagnoses, gender, race, family characteristics, socioeconomic status, and relevant health or other biological impairments.

In addition, fidelity of treatment documentation must operationally define the intervention in sufficient detail so that an external group could replicate it as well as assess the degree of implementation. Independent, objective assessment of expected outcomes should be conducted at regular intervals, and immediate and long-term assessment of effects on children and families should include measures of generalization and maintenance.

Future research on intervention programs for young children with autistic spectrum disorders should address the following methodological

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement