mediated interventions. Such skills may well be appropriate goals for many children with autism who have limited communicative abilities.
In assessing the social repertoire and social needs of young children with autism, early childhood professionals need to turn to several different sources. Social development has not been as thoroughly researched as language development, and different aspects of social development require different approaches to assessment. One set of tools that provide a very global assessment of social development are adaptive behavior scales like the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (Sparrow et al., 1984) or the Scales of Independent Behavior-Revised (SIB-R), (Bruininks et al., 1996). These tools are best used in setting general goals for the social domain, since they provide an overview of social functioning in various areas, but not a detailed look at social skill repertoires.
More detail about social development can be gathered with preschool curriculum assessments, most of which contain a social subscale. Some scales are standardized so that average levels are determined for children of different ages. Others are criterion-referenced, so they compare performance to a practical standard for particular behaviors. Such instruments include the Battelle Developmental Inventory (Newborg et al., 1984), the Learning Accomplishment Profile (LAP) (LeMay et al., 1983), the Michigan Scales (Rogers et al., 1979), and the Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System (AEPS) (Bricker, 1993). These tools assess behaviors seen in typically developing children of various ages, and thus may be helpful in determining what skills a child already has, and what should be taught next from a developmental perspective.
For assessing social abilities within the context of parent-infant interactions, one may turn to traditional rating scales of parent-infant interactions (see Munson and Odom, 1996, for a review), measures of early symbolic communication and behavior (e.g., Wetherby and Prizant, 1993), or criterion referenced assessment of early development (e.g., the AEPS by Bricker, 1993). Since communication is the process by which people carry out social relationships, children’s communication skills and needs are part and parcel of social development. Developing social goals and objectives needs to be carried out hand in hand with developing communication goals and objectives. Thus, assessing communication abilities and needs and making sure that teaching strategies for communication are integrated with social teaching strategies are crucial for developing skills that are functional and adaptive for a child.
Play, like communication, is an important social activity in early childhood. Play skills and needs, like communication, must be assessed and considered within the social domain. Developmental sequences of play have been published in various sources (Wetherby and Prizant, 1993;