more valuable information if there were minimal standards in design and description of intervention projects.
The committee recommends that all intervention studies provide adequate information on the children and families who participated and those who chose not to participate or withdrew from participation, describe the intervention in sufficient detail so that an external group could replicate it, measure fidelity of treatment, and include objective measures of short-term and long-term outcomes that are assessed by independent examiners. The federal agencies involved in autism initiatives—including the Office of Special Education Programs, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke—should establish a joint task force and call for proposals for longitudinal and other intervention studies that assess the relative effectiveness of treatments and that investigate the effectiveness of different educational and treatment models for children, with individual differences defined either according to broadly delineated categories (e.g., children with autistic spectrum disorders with average or greater intelligence) or according to continuous dimensions (e.g., chronological age), and that consider the effects of selection or assignment. Competitively funded initiatives in early intervention in autistic spectrum disorders should routinely provide sufficient funding for short- and long-term assessment of program efficacy. Complementary research on the development of more specific, precise measures of outcome, educational skills, and sequences should be supported to assess the effects of interactions between family variables, child factors, and responses to interventions, and to identify the active ingredients and mediating variables that influence effects of treatment.
In summary, education at home, at school, and in community settings remains the primary treatment for young children with autistic spectrum disorders. Many specific techniques and several comprehensive programs have clear effects on important aspects of these children’s learning. Yet links between interventions and improvements are also dependent on characteristics of the children and aspects of the treatments that are not yet fully understood. The challenges are to ensure implementation of what is already known so that every child benefits from this knowledge and to work from existing research to identify more effective educational interventions for all children with autistic spectrum disorders.