Robert L. Koegel, Ph.D., Director, Autism Research Center; Professor, Counseling/Clinical/School Psychology Program; and Head, Development and Disabilities Specialization, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D., Clinic Director, Autism Research
Center, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
The purpose of this book is to provide a useful conceptual and practical guide for teaching children with autism in a way that will maximize their developmental potential. As ever-increasing numbers of children are receiving a diagnosis of autism, we have attempted to provide a guide to understanding the great variability among the children. As the research continues to evolve, it is likely that a more clear knowledge of the early symptoms of infants and toddlers diagnosed with autism will help us define prognostic indicators and discover what early behaviors may need to be taught for the most favorable outcome. We are extremely optimistic about the procedures described in this book, which have been experimentally documented to be more effective than procedures generally used in the past. We are also well aware that, while the course of the disability changes over time and some children are able to reach a functioning level quite similar to that of their typically developing peers, there also are many who are unable to achieve that level. Thus, the need exists for greater understanding of the variability among children with this diagnosis.
Our general approach to intervention is based upon a developmental model. that is, throughout the book we describe ways to normalize the environmental situation and interactions that the children receive, so as to maximize their developmental potential. Therefore, we stress the importance of conducting teaching and intervention under naturalistic environmental conditions. We focus on utilizing the benefits of parental involvement and parent education programs, so that the children may learn in their regular community environments. We also focus on interventions that are conducted in full-inclusion environments, in the home, community, and school, where the children are learning among their typically developing peers. We stress the importance of friendships among individuals with and without disabilities and the essential role of friendships in development.
We also emphasize in this book that reaching a child's maximum potential necessitates a coordinated and cooperative effort among professionals. To date, no one individual or group of individuals has unlocked all of the complex variables in autism. The key to best helping children with autism involves a group effort. Too often professionals find themselves involved in controversy and perhaps even court cases because those interacting with a particular child cannot agree. At the end of these often-lengthy controversies no one is fully satisfied, and the child has suffered in the meantime. In contrast, a coordinated effort by all involved can greatly enhance the functioning level of the child with autism and concomitantly reduce the tremendous familial stress associated with having a child with a disability.