range of possible outcomes and with the many methods that fit into best practices. Specific problems in generalization and maintenance of behaviors also affect the kind of training needed, as does the wide range of IQs and verbal skills associated with autistic spectrum disorders, from profound mental retardation and severe language impairments to high intelligence.
Multiple exposures, opportunities to practice, and active involvement are all important aspects of learning for teachers and other professionals. Technical assistance consisting of ongoing consultation, hands-on opportunities to practice skills, and building on the knowledge of teachers as they acquire experience with children with autistic spectrum disorders are crucial. Administrative attitudes and support are critical in improving schools, as are explicit strategies for keeping skilled personnel within the field. Providing knowledge about autistic spectrum disorders to special education and regular education administrators as well as to specialized providers with major roles in early intervention (e.g., speech language pathologists) are also critical in proactive change.
The committee recommends that the relevant state and federal agencies, including the Office of Special Education Programs, should accelerate their personnel preparation funds for 5 years for those who work with, and are responsible for, children with autistic spectrum disorders and their families. These efforts should be part of a larger effort to coordinate and collaborate with the already established infrastructure for special education, including regional resource centers and technical assistance programs.
What research and further scientific investigations of effective education for young children with autistic spectrum disorders are needed?
A number of comprehensive programs report results on their effects, but interpretations of these results have been limited by several factors: practical and ethical difficulties in randomly assigning children and families to treatment groups; problems in selecting contrast groups; inadequate description of the children and families who participated in the studies; and lack of fidelity of treatment or generalization data. There is little evidence concerning the effectiveness of discipline-specific therapies, and there are no adequate comparisons of different comprehensive treatments. However, there is substantial research supporting the effectiveness of many specific therapeutic techniques and of comprehensive programs in contrast to less intense, nonspecific interventions. Research would yield