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Review of "Educating Children With Autism"

By Catherine Lord and James P. McGee, (editors)
National Academy Press, 2001
Review by Lynda Geller, Ph.D. on Jun 17th 2003
Educating Children With Autism

As 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.

This 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 and practices. 


© 2003 Lynda Geller


Lynda Geller, Director of Community Services and Education, Cody Center for Autism, SUNY Stony Brook

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