FACT-BASED AUTISM INFORMATION: Meta-Analysis of Universal Best Practices across Autism Interventions
While Behavioral and Developmental models differ in their theoretical foundations, intervention philosophies and methodology, meta-analysis from twenty years ago, and in again in 2000 repeatedly demonstrate that effective models follow several common universal best-practices. Because eclectic models can vary widely, and cannot be validated by research as we build them for each individual person, they can greatly enhanced by, and their outcomes may even be dependent upon, the use of these universal best Autism practices for successful results. These guidelines also allow the Autism community to have some principles we can have consensus on, even as we may agree to disagree on the specific models we may choose from in a person-focused, family-centered, and community based model approach.
The following are the ten universal best-practice features that have been shown to provide a common foundation to all successful intervention programs:
1) Emphasis on earliest possible screening, diagnosis, eligibility for Autism services evaluations and ongoing assessment in the immediate implementation of appropriate effective Autism interventions;
2) Programs are tailored to the needs of each individual with specific adaptations that match the person's spectrum profile, age, stage of development, and emergent potentials;
3) Highly structured and skill-oriented teaching and treatment programs;
4) Frequent informal reassessment and systematic data-based tracking of skill growth and related plan review and revisions;
5) Use individual motivational strategies and systems (behavioral model motivators are more extrinsic in nature, and developmental model motivators are more intrinsic in nature. Most programs will utilize a certain combination);
6) Teaching areas are structured, organized and distraction-free environments which incorporate intensive one-to-one and small group sessions. Activities and routines are flexible yet predictable. Time spent waiting is kept to a minimum;
7) Provide multiple settings and consistency of methodology across time and spaces, in at least three
and up to six settings, for promoting skills generalization;
8) All personnel are well-trained and continuously evaluated for competence and consistency in application of the intervention model used--optimally a family-centered choice with life-span planning;
9) Comprehensive home programming and parent training within a team approach that seeks to use the family’s talent in a co-treatment model;
10) Intervention strategies are maintained full-day and year-round from preschool through adulthood, as provided by our family and respite-care providers and our public and private services and programs.
The research over the last two decades consistently shows 25 hours a week in year-round programs is the service level needed to produce positive levels of growth in the face of the effects of Autism on infants and young children. However, 40+ hours may be needed for optimum outcomes in behavioral programs that are seeking fully normative outcomes. However the entire family, respite, public or private provider team, and strong shared data tracking systems are all important parts of reaching any best practice program goals. No one member of our family or society can do this alone.
RECENT PUBLICATION: A meta-analysis of educational interventions text: “Educating Children with Autism” Published by the National Research Council. National Academy Press. Washington D.C. at: www.nap.edu
PAST RESEARCH: COSAC/Center for Outreach and Services for the Autism Community, 1450 Parkside Avenue, Suite 22, Ewing, NJ 08638. Autism Helpline 1-800-4-AUTISM. Basic Information/Research in English and Spanish.