apply the strategies in highly artificial ways, particularly in extended one-on-one interactions, which prevents their easy use in group settings and inclusive settings. Newer behavioral approaches such as incidental teaching and pivotal response training stress naturalistic delivery, are used in group settings, and allow easier coordination with inclusion (Prizant and Wetherby, 1998; Anderson and Romanczyk, 1999). These strategies have demonstrated very effective outcomes, but are not as well known to the public, either parents or professionals.
For very young children with autism, goals for specific social behaviors or skills identified in interactions with adults may focus on early prelinguistic behaviors, such as joint attention, turn taking, imitation, responding by gaze to adult initiations, and initiating social interactions with adults (Wetherby and Prizant, 1993). These interactions occur within a play context, so establishing and supporting toy play with an adult may be a goal for some children. As children grow older, interactions with adults may more often occur in classroom contexts. Although such classroom-based interactions may also occur in a play context, the nature of adult-child interactions will extend to behaviors necessary for participating and functioning independently in the classroom. Social skills-such as responding to adult directions, independently participating in the routines of the classroom, expressing needs to adults (e.g., need to go to the bathroom), and requesting assistance of the adult—all become important functional skills necessary for children to be successful in classroom settings.
Interaction with peers is another dimension of children’s social development that becomes increasingly important for children beginning at the age of 3. To identify potential intervention target behaviors for young children with severe handicaps (including autism), Strain (1983) observed groups of preschool children with and without disabilities who received high and low sociometric ratings from their peers. Children with high sociometric ratings engaged in more play organizers (i.e., suggesting a play idea, sharing, affection, and social initiations that involved assisting others) and responded more to peer social bids than children with low peer ratings. These social initiations have been used as targets or goals for interventions with young children with autism in a range of studies (see Odom and Ogawa, 1992). Other investigators (Goldstein et al., 1992) have used prelinguistic social-communicative behaviors, such as joint attention and pragmatic communicative forms (e.g., requesting, comments, and nonverbal responses directed toward peers), as outcomes for peer-