By Catherine Lord and James P. McGee, (editors) National Academy Press, 2001 Review by Lynda Geller, Ph.D. on Jun 17th 2003
anyone who browses the Internet or reads the popular press knows, autism is a
topic being increasingly covered.
Unfortunately, the scientific validity of much of what appears before
the public is questionable at best.
Legislators are torn between wanting to respond to desperate families
and not really understanding what the state of the science is on critical
issues. School district personnel are
frequently uneducated about what is and is not evidence based. Parents are vulnerable to the claims of
untested treatments as they search for help for their children. The National Research Council has put
together a group of experts in the field to examine the research evidence in a
broad array of related fields on the topic of educational interventions for
young children. They have set forth
what their criteria will be in assessing current research and they have
organized this book around issues of key importance in the field of
autism. Most importantly, they have
included a section entitled "From Research to Practice" at the end of
most chapters that summarizes what is known, what further directions need to be
taken, and how the research knowledge can inform effective practice.
Educating Children with Autism
is meant for a professional audience, however, for thoughtful readers who are
concerned about the merits of a wide variety of treatments, this is an
excellent compendium of the scientifically based knowledge in the field and is
much more approachable than attempting to review this literature oneself. The topics that are covered in this book
include diagnosis and its effect on program planning, family support issues,
characteristics and effectiveness of treatment interventions and programs,
governmental and policy issues, education and training needs in schools, and a
summary of some of the problems in designing and conducting research that
limits progress in this area. The main
limitation of this book is that it covers only educational interventions,
although these are quite widely defined, and a small age segment, young
children. One hopes that this is only
the beginning of such examinations on a wider array of topics about autism
spectrum disorders. This book is
certainly thoughtful and evenhanded in its approach, even when treatments with
no current evidence are reviewed.
Helping the public begin to understand what does and does not constitute
scientific evidence, and this is an issue in all developing fields, is an
important accomplishment of this committee of experts.
book represents an important step in educating a larger readership than those
personally engaged in research about autism.
Educational personnel who make decisions about children's lives,
families who want what is best for their child, and professionals who provide
education and treatment for children with autism should read this book, as it
represents the best current summary of what is and is not known about educating
young children with autism. It is also
a significant resource as a starting point for reviewing particular therapies