ment of behavioral problems, and the integration of this approach into overall communication programming remains an area in which continued research can produce value for practice. As work with younger and younger children is undertaken, research that targets goals and documents progress for the core communication skills becomes even more essential, because these skills provide the underpinnings for later social and linguistic competence (Wetherby et al., 2000).
More rigorous research in developmental interventions and interventions that combine or compare naturalistic teaching, focused behavioral and developmental approaches for different aspects of communication and language would contribute valuable perspectives and could contribute ideas for innovative educational techniques. For example, Greenspan and Wieder (1997) suggested that the capacity for complex gestural interaction with shared positive affect was an important predictor to success in their intervention. Future research examining the predictive value of a child’s capacity for joint attention and symbol use could help refine decision-making in treatment and contribute to better understanding of the role of motor functioning in communication and language outcomes.
Studies in autism have focused primarily on child variables and child outcomes. Family variables, considered to be critical to general early intervention research (such as socioeconomic level, stress, supports available, and parents’ involvement in a child’s development), have not been addressed in outcome studies of children with autism (Gresham and MacMillan, 1997). Seminal research on efficacy of early intervention for children with a range of disabilities (Shonkoff et al., 1992) demonstrated that family variables were strong predictors of outcome. Studies of the relationships between family factors and the development and use of communication and language, and the ways in which those factors interact with interventions, would help address this significant gap in understanding.