goals and objectives, as well as assessing progress. These therapists can have an important role in identifying appropriate goals and teaching techniques in their area of expertise. They can teach classroom staff and parents to use those techniques and to identify learning opportunities for the child in the classroom, community, and home. Speech/language and motor therapists are also carefully trained in specific treatment techniques in their individual areas.
The current role of psychologists and behavior specialists as interventionists in the education of young children with autistic spectrum disorders most often involves assessment, consultation, and development of intervention strategies. Psychologists and behavior specialists are often involved in providing functional analyses of problem behaviors; designing behavioral interventions; providing cognitive, adaptive, and social assessments; guiding the educational curriculum in these areas; and consulting with the rest of the educational team about educational strategies and interventions. Psychologists, social workers, and speech language therapists are sometimes involved in carrying out social skills groups, generally for older school age children. Psychologists and behavior specialists are often involved in parent training and support as well.
Whatever the discipline involved, justification for individual therapy as part of an educational program should be based on the use of particular intervention strategies in which the therapist is skilled. The research literature suggests that the greatest effects of any direct treatment for young children with autistic spectrum disorders lie in the generalization of learning achieved through working with classroom personnel and parents. There is little reason to believe that individual therapies carried out infrequently (e.g., once or twice a week) have a unique long-term value for young children, unless the techniques are taught to and used regularly by the child and the people who are with him or her in natural contexts. The value of one-on-one therapy lies in generalization, which must be planned and directly addressed. On the other hand, the assumption in all of the model programs is that skill development begins in individual instruction that may occur in the classroom or in individual treatment. Adequate amounts of individual instruction, whether by a teacher or parent or therapist, are crucial to early learning.