Autism: Teaching DOES Make a Difference. (Book Reviews)

Article excerpt

Scheuermann, B. & Webber, J. (2002) Autism: Teaching DOES Make a Difference. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Intended for "practitioners who work with children and youth with low-functioning autism and related disorders (p. xi)," the book, Autism: Teaching DOES Make a Difference, gives a detailed look at a behavioral approach to dealing with autism. With very user-friendly language the authors have presented step-by-step, state-of-the-art information, as well as several resources including everything from sample data sheets to web sites for support groups. This book is an excellent resource for both practitioners and parents considering a program based on a behavioral approach for children with autism.

Chapter 1, Overview of Autism, gives a history and description of the disorder as well as the diagnostic process and what a diagnosis of autism means. It also talks about the type of intervention programs that may be considered, giving an overview of three theories (perceptual/ cognitive, developmental and behavioral) but focusing primarily on the behavioral theory of intervention. The authors discuss what type of characteristics a teacher should display, telling what you should look for in a person being considered to teach a child with autism. Some of the characteristics they recommend are that the person be energetic, positive, organized and consistent. They also speak of how parental involvement with the teachers and the child's program is crucial.

In Chapter 2, the authors discuss the basic behavioral principles that can be applied to "increase desired behaviors, decrease inappropriate behaviors, and teach new behaviors (p. 28)." They also discuss the importance of data collection, how to correctly take data, and how to evaluate the meaning of the data collected. The use of reinforcement and punishment are addressed, giving definitions of how to assess which consequence should be used. The use of either should be determined by the antecedent of the behavior or by what is maintaining the current behavior. When the antecedent that triggers problem behavior is identified, one can then determine what should be done differently in reaction to the behavior so that the behavior increases or decreases as desired. (Note: The term punishment is defined as "the contingent presentation of a stimulus immediately after a behavior that reduces the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated [p. 54]." The authors acknowledge that there are ethical concerns with the misuse of punishment and give detailed explanations of appropriate and inappropriate uses of punishment procedures.)

Chapter 3 focuses on Reducing Challenging Behavior, especially those behaviors that are most commonly found in children with autism. The authors describe how to conduct a functional assessment of the behaviors to better understand why the child engages in a certain behavior. It goes on to describe how to develop interventions for specific challenging behaviors such as noncompliance, self-stimulatory behaviors, self-injurious behavior, and aggression. …