Evidence-Based Practices and Teaching the Autistic Child (page 2)
Compared with Canadian parents of children with Down syndrome, Canadian parents of children with autism spectrum disorders report a greater need for consistent therapies for their child, and for professionals who are knowledgeable about autism (Siklos & Kerns, 2006). Research has demonstrated that there are difficulties for students with ASD if there is limited consistency across learning environments, and therefore it is essential that service be consistent and carefully coordinated (Prizant et al., 2006b). This need for consistency includes the practices in the educational and home environments.
“ABA is a science of behaviour, which, when applied to autism, empowers parents with the skills to harness principles of behaviour for bringing out the best in their children” (Keenan, 2006, p. 48). Keenan describes how a parent of a child with autism instigated the application of his work in applied behavior analysis to the community issue of designing effective programs for individuals with ASD in Ireland (Keenan). The parents of children with ASD in Ireland and New Zealand describe the process of designing and obtaining educational services for their children with ASD, including starting new programs and their successes, failures, and recommendations (Keenan, Henderson, Kerr, & Dillenburger, 2006). It is clear from each of the stories the great amount of time and effort that parents put into obtaining an evidence-based education for their children.
When guiding parents through the special education process, Chantal Sicile-Kira, a parent herself, provides the following suggestions:
- Get to know how your child learns.
- Learn about the educational strategies that work for autism spectrum disorders.
- Learn about IDEA and No Child Left Behind.
- Learn about your local school district.
- Familiarize yourself with the different types of school options.
- Visit different schools and different classrooms.
- Develop good relationships.
- Learn about intensive behavioral therapy.
- Keep good records.
- Keep good notes of any phone calls, meetings, and conversations about your child.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Do not feel intimidated by professionals.
- Keep focused on your goal: a free appropriate education in the least restrictive environment for your child.
- Monitor your child’s progress and educational programs.
- Develop good relationships in the community. (Sicile-Kira, 2004, pp. 195–200)
In their book, parent and professional coauthors Koegel and Lazebnik (2004) provide guidelines for choosing the right teacher. Some of the questions they suggest parents consider are: Does the teacher have good behavioral control of her students? Is the teacher able to individualize instruction for the variety of different student abilities in her classroom? Are the teacher’s classroom activities and curriculum meaningful? Does the teacher incorporate motivational strategies into the teaching?
In an article describing a list of guidelines for evaluating intervention programs for children with autism spectrum disorders, the first and last guidelines are: “Approach any new treatment with hopeful skepticism. Remember the goal of any treatment should be to help the person with autism become a fully functioning member of society, and “be aware that often new treatments have not been validated scientifically” (Freeman, 1997, p. 647).
Parents have the right to demand that the services be based on the best available scientific evidence about effective strategies for teaching children with autism (Bondy, 1996). “Few people would argue with the statement that today the treatment of choice is based on the behavioral model. In fact, behavioral treatment is the only treatment that has been empirically demonstrated to be effective for children with autism” (Schreibman, 2005, p. 133).
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