behavior change, and family-centered consideration of the needs and strengths of the family as a unit. Nearly all empirically supported treatments reviewed by the committee included a parent component, and most research programs used a parent-training approach. More information is needed about the benefits of a family-centered orientation or combined family-centered and formalized parent training in helping parents.
It is well established that parents can learn and successfully apply skills to changing the behavior of their children with autistic spectrum disorders, though little is known about the effects of cultural differences, such as race, ethnicity, and social class, nor about the interactions among family factors, child characteristics, and features of educational intervention. For most families, having a child with an autistic spectrum disorder creates added stress. Parents’ use of effective teaching methods can have a significant effect on that stress, as can support from within the family and the community. Parents need access to balanced information about autistic spectrum disorders and the range of appropriate services and technologies in order to carry out their responsibilities. They also need timely information about assessments, educational plans, and the available resources for their children. This information needs to be conveyed to them in a meaningful way that gives them time to prepare to fulfill their roles and responsibilities.
In the last ten years the widespread availability of the Internet and media attention to autistic spectrum disorders have increased parents’ knowledge but often conveyed perspectives that were not balanced nor well-supported scientifically. Of crucial importance is the question of how to make information available to parents and to ensure their active role in advocacy for their children’s education.
Parents’ concerns and perspectives should actively help to shape educational planning. Specifically:
a. In order for a family to be effective members of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team that plans a child’s education, the local school system should provide to the parents, at the beginning of the assessment process, written information concerning the nature of autistic spectrum disorders and eligibility categories, the range of alternatives within best practices in early education of autistic spectrum disorders, sources of funding and support (e.g., a support guide and bibliography), and their child’s rights.
b. Prior to the IEP meeting, the local school system should provide to each family the written results of their child’s assess