suggests that it is important to be sensitive to the family’s cultural context to provide effective services, there is a need for more research to understand how socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity impact services.
Because of the nature of autism, young children with this disorder need a consistent and supportive environment to make optimal educational progress. For example, children with autistic spectrum disorders often have problems transferring a skill learned in one setting to another place or time. This process of generalization of learning needs to be anticipated and supported, and so parents of children with autism need to be more closely involved in the educational process than do parents of children with many other childhood disorders. For example, early research on the benefits of applied behavior analysis by Lovaas and his colleagues (1973) showed that children with autism who returned to a home prepared to support their learning maintained their treatment gains better than children who went to institutional settings that failed to carry over the treatment methods.
Parents can learn techniques for teaching adaptive skills and managing the behavior of their child with autism. Such intervention maximizes the child’s learning, improves the quality of family life, and may enable parents to sustain their efforts with their child over time. Based on that early observation of the importance of the home environment (Lovaas et al., 1973), several behavior analysts developed techniques for teaching parents the fundamentals of applied behavior analysis and making them integral members of the educational team. That research documented that parents could master the basics of applied behavior analysis, and many became highly skilled teachers (e.g., Baker, 1989; Harris, 1983; Koegel et al., 1984) who expressed satisfaction with the benefits of training (e.g., Harris, 1983; Kolko, 1984). The proponents of applied behavior analysis have carried the role of parental involvement farther than other approaches, and in some cases it is parents who provide much of the oversight and management of home-based applied behavioral analysis programs, with an outside consultant offering periodic input (e.g., Lovaas, 1987).
Although the bulk of the research on teaching parents to work with their child in the home has been done using applied behavior analysis, Ozonoff and Cathcart (1998) reported a study in which parents of young children with autism were taught to use TEACCH instructional methods in the home. In contrast with a no-treatment control group, the children whose parents used TEACCH methods in the home showed greater improvement in a variety of skills over a 4-month interval. The children in