School Psychology Review

Mini-Series: Assessment and Treatment of Children With Autism in the Schools
Volume 28, Issue 4 (1999 )

Editor: Patti L. Harrison


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  • Editor's Comments

    Patti L. Harrison

    pp. 533-534

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  • Introduction to the Mini-Series: Assessment and Treatment of Children With Autism in the Schools

    Mark D. Shriver, Keith D. Allen, Judith R. Matthews

    pp. 535-537

    Although a low-incidence disorder, children with autism seem to have attracted much attention from the popular press and media. In addition,parents of children with autism appear to have recently become more vocal and visible in advocating for services for their children. The increased attention toward children with autism appears to have spawned an increase in treatments purported to ameliorate significantly the symptoms of autism, if not actually to cure autism. It is difficult for professionals and parents to sift through the vast amount of popular literature and empirical literature to determine what exactly we do know about treating children with autism.

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  • Effective Assessment of the Shared and Unique Characteristics of Children With Autism

    Mark D. Shriver, Keith D. Allen, Judith R. Matthews

    pp. 538-558

    Abstract: Autism is a low-incidence disorder that has received increasing attention as parents have organized seeking more effective education services for their children with autism.School psychologists will have contact with children with autism through their participation on multidisciplinary teams (MDT) to determine a child’s eligibility for special education services. School psychologists can use their expertise in assessment to effectively address verification decisions in consultation with MDT members and parents. In addition, assessment that also addresses educational programming and evaluation decisions is considered best practice. To assist school psychologists assessing children with autism, this article presents information on some of the shared and unique characteristics of children with autism to help focus the purpose of assessment. The most appropriate methods of assessment to address the characteristics of autism are presented and some specific measures and instruments are evaluated.

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  • A Selective Review of Treatments for Children With Autism: Description and Methodological Considerations

    Frank M. Gresham, Margaret R. Beebe-Frankenberger, Donald L. MacMillan

    pp. 559-575

    Abstract: Autism is a developmental disorder whose behavioral characteristics range on a continuum from mild to severe. Autism is typically not diagnosed prior to age 2 to 3 years and the prognosis for this pervasive developmental disorder is poor. Although there is no documented “cure” for autism, research suggests that it can be managed effectively using comprehensive behavioral and educational treatment programs. This article reviews and critiques several of the most visible and most frequently cited treatment programs for children with autism: the UCLA Young Autism Project, Project TEACCH, LEAP, applied behavior analysis programs, and the Denver Health Science Program.Treatment programs having little or no empirical support such as facilitated communication, auditory integration therapy, and sensory integration therapy also are briefly reviewed.We evaluate the empirical evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of these programs using conventional standards of research design and methodology and the Division 12 Task Force on Empirically Supported Treatments for Childhood Disorders of the American Psychological Association. Based on these Task Force criteria, there are no well-established or probably efficacious treatments for autism, although virtually all programs show substantial developmental gains, particularly in measured IQ. Recommendations for future research and practice are offered with guidelines for evaluating treatment programs for children with autism.

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  • Pivotal Teaching Interactions for Children With Autism

    Robert L. Koegel, Lynn Kern Koegel, Cynthia M. Carter

    pp. 576-594

    Abstract: This article discusses effective teaching interactions in the treatment of autism with a focus on pivotal target behaviors. Specifically, in behaviorally oriented intervention approaches, our research suggests that several areas appear to be especially important. First,progress may be enhanced by defining “pivotal” target behaviors that affect wide areas of functioning so that school psychologists, teachers, and other practitioners may be able to have widespread impacts on children’s overall functioning. Second, psychologists are now able to develop interventions that simultaneously lead to independence on the part of the child, are correlated with decreases in untreated problem behaviors, are maintained with the passage of time, and therefore result in a long-term improved prognosis.

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  • Curriculum for Students With Autism

    J. Gregory Olley

    pp. 595-607

    Abstract: For many years research on the nature of autism and teaching methods has overshadowed the development of effective curriculum. Nevertheless, a valuable body of knowledge is available that offers practical approaches to guide psychology consultation in schools. This article reviews (a) the theoretical approaches to curriculum and the recent integration of these approaches; (b) examples of the application of curriculum to reduce problem behavior and facilitate engagement and learning in areas such as social skills,communication, self-help, cognition, play, and vocational skills; and (c) the research that supports various elements of curriculum. Research in this field has not identified any approach that is universally effective. Therefore, the school psychologist must combine information from individual student assessments, family and student preferences, and a general knowledge of autism to design individualized curriculum and consult with educators to implement and to monitor the effectiveness of the curriculum. The result can be a comprehensive and individualized curriculum that promotes independence and skills needed for adult functioning.

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  • Increasing Treatment Fidelity by Matching Interventions to Contextual Variables Within the Educational Setting

    Ronnie Detrich

    pp. 608-620

    Abstract: One of the primary determinants of successful intervention programs for children with autism is the degree to which the programs are implemented with precision and consistency; that is, fidelity. One strategy for increasing the fidelity of program implementation is to match the intervention procedures to contextual variables in the classroom. One of the critical contextual variables in a classroom is the teaching staff. By considering how the staff currently interacts with students and provides instruction, it is possible to design services that closely match current practices in the classroom and,consequently, possibly increase the probability that the intervention plan will be implemented with fidelity. This article suggests contextual variables to be considered, methods for assessing them, and strategies for intervening based upon the result of the assessment.

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  • Annotated Bibliography for the Mini-Series on Assessment and Treatment of Children With Autism in Schools

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  • Transferring Stimulus Control Via Momentum to Increase Compliance in a Student With Autism: A Demonstration of Collaborative Consultation

    Kimberly P. Ray, Christopher H. Skinner, T. Steuart Watson

    pp. 622-628

    Abstract: Previous research on behavioral momentum has focused upon increasing compliance across commands, demands, or requests (i.e., increasing compliance with low-probability commands). The current study extended research on behavioral momentum by demonstrating how it could be used to transfer stimulus control across people. A series of antecedent parent-issued commands (i.e., high-probability commands) were used to increase compliance with teacher-issued commands (i.e., low-probability commands) in a student with autism. The interval between the series of high-probability and low-probability commands was gradually increased and the ratio of high-probability to low-probability commands was gradually reduced. These fading procedures may have contributed to the maintenance and generalization of intervention effects. Results are discussed in terms of collaborative interventions, stimulus control transfer, behavioral momentum, generalization,maintenance and the scientist-practitioner model of school psychology.

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  • Exceptional LD Profile Types for the WISC-III and WIAT

    Thomas Ward, Sandra B. Ward, Joseph J. Glutting, Clifford V. Hatt

    pp. 629-643

    Abstract: This study represents an extension of the research on subtypes of learning disabilities (LD). The studies on LD subtypes have consistently produced five or six distinct profiles. One weakness of previous studies was the assumption that identified individuals were accurately diagnosed. The current study examined ability and achievement profiles on the third edition of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) and Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) for 201 students identified as LD. An initial hierarchical cluster analysis indicated five distinct clusters that were similar to those found in previous research. After the initial cluster analysis of all cases, the ability and achievement profiles were matched against the most common multivariate profiles of ability and achievement scores derived from the WISC-IIIBVIAT linking sample. Results revealed that 70.1% of the student profiles matched a core profile and could, therefore, be considered nonexceptional. A second cluster analysis of the cases, which were judged to have exceptional profiles, indicated that two distinct clusters were present. The ramifications of these findings on the identification of LD as well as the utility of exceptional profiles are discussed.

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  • Definition x Treatment Interactions for Students With Learning Disabilities

    H. Lee Swanson, Maureen Hoskyn

    pp. 644-658

    Abstract: This article investigates whether intervention outcomes for students with learning disabilities (LD) vary as a function of IQ and/or reading level. Effect sizes for 180 intervention studies were analyzed across instructional domains (e.g., reading, mathematics), and sample characteristics (e.g., intelligence, reading). The important findings were (a) a significant intelligence x reading level interaction emerges related to the magnitude of treatment outcomes indicating that studies which produced the highest effect sizes reported the smallest discrepancy between intelligence and reading (intelligence scores between 84 and 91 and reading scores between 84 and 91) when compared to other studies; (b) effect sizes were higher for strategy instruction and direct instruction-only models when studies met cut-off score criteria (study samples report standardized IQ scores at or above 85 and reading scores at or below the 25th percentile) when compared to other studies; and (c) effect sizes were more positive for a Combined Strategy and Direct Instruction model when compared to competing instructional models, but the difference in magnitude was weakened when compared to competing models when samples were defined as meeting cut-off score criteria.Overall, the results support the notion that variations in how LD samples are defined are related to the magnitude of treatment outcomes.

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