terminology used by school systems, such as other health impaired, social emotionally maladjusted, significantly developmentally delayed, or neurologically impaired.

1–2

Identification of autistic spectrum disorders should include a formal multidisciplinary evaluation of social behavior, language and nonverbal communication, adaptive behavior, motor skills, atypical behaviors, and cognitive status by a team of professionals experienced with autistic spectrum disorders. An essential part of this evaluation is the systematic gathering of information from parents on their observations and concerns. If the school system cannot carry out such an assessment, the local education authority should fund the assessment through external sources. Early diagnosis should be emphasized. Because of variability in early development, younger children with autistic spectrum disorders should receive a follow-up diagnostic and educational assessment within one to two years of initial evaluation.

1–3

Professional organizations, with the support of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), should disseminate information concerning the nature and range of autistic spectrum disorders in young children to all professionals who have contact with children, particularly those who work with infants, toddlers, and preschool children. This information should include the variable presentations and patterns of behavior seen in autistic spectrum disorders from toddlers to school age children. Members of “child find” teams within the early intervention systems, as well as primary care providers, should be trained in identifying the “red flags of autistic spectrum disorders” and the importance and means of early referral for comprehensive diagnostic evaluation. Advocacy groups and relevant federal agencies, as well as professional organizations, should use effective media resources, including the Internet, to provide information concerning the range of behaviors in autistic spectrum disorders.

ROLE OF FAMILIES

Conclusions

Having a child with an autistic spectrum disorder is a challenge for any family. Involvement of families in the education of young children with autistic spectrum disorders can occur at multiple levels, including advocacy, parents as participating partners in and agents of education or



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