Children with autism are more a part of our society than ever before. The features of what we now call the autism spectrum are better understood and therefore recognized earlier and confused less with other conditions. While autism has always cut across racial, social, economic, and geographic boundaries, we now see autism in some form repeat itself more than once in many families. Yet the complexity of the autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) continues to challenge us. While many race for a cure, the immediate caretakers, parents, physicians, teachers, therapists, friends, and family must find a way to deal with, reach, and teach them. Despite the fact that we are more skilled than ever at detecting autism, we are still searching for viable ways to teach children who have it. Educators and families often find themselves at odds over this issue. Children with autism are as diverse as they are similar, and this is perplexing to the most experienced teacher. Their unique learning rates and learning styles demand highly prescriptive and individualized approaches. Many teachers are unprepared for working with children on the autism spectrum. They may either lack pre-service training, or have had limited experience with autism.
The process of creating an effective, appropriate educational program is difficult at best, never easy, and often an arduous one. As one parent remarked to me at an IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting, [We're in a marathon, aren't we?] His metaphor is an insightful one.