if its use supplants an effective assessment or intervention method that the child might have otherwise received.”

The 1999 U.S. Department of Education Regulations for the 1997 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides for scientifically supported interventions (see, e.g., 20 U.S.C., 1400 © (4)). The IDEA further requires that schools must confirm, before any changes of placement due to a behavioral problem can be considered, that the IEP and placement were appropriate and that special education services, supplementary aids and services, and behavior intervention strategies were provided consistent with the IEP and placement (34 C.F.R., 300.523, 1999; Turnbull et al., 1999). In short, before assessing deficiencies in a child who is misbehaving, it is critical to assess the adequacy of the intervention program the child is receiving. IDEA requires that interventions must show demonstrable benefits to be continued. A number of different approaches to interventions for problem behaviors meet the IDEA criteria for scientific support and benefit to individual children.

Comprehensive Treatment Programs

Various comprehensive treatment programs encompass a number of different philosophical and theoretical positions, ranging from strict operant discrimination learning (Lovaas, 1987) to broader applied behavior analysis programs (Harris et al., 1991; Fenske et al., 1985; Kohler et al., 1996), and those that highlight incidental learning (McGee et al., 1999) to more developmentally oriented programs (Schopler et al., 1995; Rogers and Lewis, 1989; Greenspan and Wieder, 1997). Comprehensive programs generally require 25 or more hours of active student engagement per week for 2 or more years and attempt to change the clinical course of an autistic spectrum disorder, including prevention of or reduction in problem behaviors. Reviews of eight model comprehensive early intervention programs (Dawson and Osterling, 1997; Harris, 1998; Rogers, 1998), taken together, identified several critical elements common to many programs that addressed problem behaviors (a more extensive review of program elements is provided in Chapter 12):

  • curriculum content that emphasized direct instruction in basic skill domains and abilities: attending to elements of the environment that are essential for learning, especially to social stimuli; imitating others; comprehending and using language; playing appropriately with toys; and interacting socially with others;

  • highly supportive teaching environments and generalization strategies;

  • predictability and routine;

  • a functional approach to problem behaviors;



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