Autism is a serious disorder affecting children. Thousands of parents in all parts of the world face the challenge of autism in their children. Much has been written and said about the nature and consequences of autism for children. Unfortunately, how to deal with autistic children remains a matter of intense professional debate. The complexity of the problem is associated with the fact that autism leads to the development of other, related disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder, language disorders, and even Tourette’s syndrome (Olney, 2000). Moreover, the complexity of autistic disorders mandates the development of unique, personalized approaches to individuals with autism. The current state of literature provides sufficient information to develop new and improve the existing interventions for individuals with autism. A combination of socio-emotional and behavioral approaches could become a valid response to the difficulties encountered by individuals with autism.
Interventions and Approaches to Individuals with Autism: Historical Background
Autism is rightly considered as one of the most complex and controversial neurological disorders affecting children. The history of autism research dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when scientific interest in the physical and natural sciences, as well as professional interest in psychology and social sciences, rapidly increased (Schopler, 2001). Researchers in psychology and social sciences borrowed their research methods from physical sciences and scientific technologies (Schopler, 2001). More often than not, scientific methods were used to study complex cultural phenomena mediated by human and political changes (Schopler, 2001). At that time, the growing body of psychological literature was built on experimental studies and their results but could not predict complex behavioral patterns in humans (Schopler, 2001). Autism represented a rare case, when a previously unknown disorder was saved from “the untested assumptions of psychodynamic theories that had produced a widespread misunderstanding of autism as a social withdrawal from emotionally cold parenting” (Schopler, 2001, p.10).
The growing scope from the cognitive revolution and the particular rise of theoretical studies brought renewed interest in the theoretical study regarding autism. Later researchers had been no longer interested in autism as merely a stimulus-response mechanism, but tried in order to look deeper into typically the nature of mental actions in people who have autism, these kinds of as attending, comprehending, thinking, and feeling (Scholer, 2001). In the latter half of the 20 th century, the research of autism displayed a new number of parallel advancements, including behaviorism and neuro-biological specificity (Scholer, 2001). Brand-new directions, including cultural mindset, were developed (Scholer, 2001). In 1995, the United states Psychological Association was necessary to develop guidelines for the choice of the most suitable interventions and therapies for psychosocial aspects of physical disorders and mental issues, and that was whenever autism came to typically the center of the research arena. Scholer (2001) writes that this APA tried in order to make a rigid distinction between the effectiveness plus efficacy of various autism interventions. The APA also decided that, in buy to determine the effectiveness and effectiveness of autism interventions, all research topics had to meet typically the same diagnostic criteria and be not confounded simply by dual diagnoses (Scholer, 2001). Unfortunately, regarding autism, such cases are virtually nonexistent as people who have autistic disorders are loaded with numerous, related symptoms and problems. Moreover, not all researchers and organizations can meet these criteria; as a result, the gap between theory and clinical program of various autism surgery and approaches continues to be able to persist (Scholer, 2001). Scholer (2001) concludes that specialists and oldsters of children along with autism need to overcome typically the existing research-service gap in addition to because autism is the lifelong disorder with zero definite cure, the remedy and intervention techniques produced for this group associated with patients should not become overly intrusive but efficient to the extent that alleviates the burden associated with cognitive and emotional symptoms in individuals with autism.
Today’ s research into autism and the advancement interventions and treatment approaches with regard to individuals with autism are associated with a quantity of serious issues. Just about all these issues have already been described by contemporary researchers. To start with, the appropriateness and effectiveness of various interventions (including behavioral and socio-emotional) are profoundly influenced simply by a prodigious time postpone between the development of autism and its diagnosis. Bowler (2010) suggests of which the delay between the second parents notice the 1st symptoms and become stressed about their children’ s behaviours, and the moment the diagnosis is confirmed is the matter of continued concern for clinicians. Bowler (2010) is convinced that well-timed diagnosis is crucial for your provision of effective proper care strategies and interventions. Sadly, this delay between symptoms and diagnosis is feature of almost all nations around the world of the developed world (Noterdaeme & Hutzelmeyer-Nickels, 2010). When exactly parents become stressed of their children’ s health greatly depends upon the particular subvariety of autism (Bowler, 2010). Bowler (2010) will be confident that this existing gap between the first symptoms and the differential medical diagnosis considerably complicates the provision of effective autism concours and services. These problems are further coupled together with the complexities posed by simply ASD assessment; the second option is often both timeconsuming and complex, requiring expert expertise and experience (McClure, Mackay, Mamdami & McCaughey, 2010). McClure et ing. (2010) are convinced that these are the primary factors affecting the quality in addition to effectiveness of the analysis.
Another difficulty is usually in how teachers plus service providers deliver autism interventions and refine approaches to treatment in people who have autism. Lerman, Vorndran, Addison and Kuhn (2004) write that “ the requirement for teachers who have got expertise in applied behavior analysis will continue in order to grow as more small children with autism receive typically the majority of their education in regular public schools” (p. 510). In comparison to the beginning regarding the 1990s, the amount of children with autism studying in public schools offers increased from 5, 500 to almost 95, 1000 (Lerman et al., 2004). Unfortunately, most teachers have got little, if any, elegant training and instruction in order to deal with children with autism (Lerman et ing., 2004). Lerman et al. (2004) confirm the shortage of specialized preparations found in autism across education universities and universities, which deprive future education professionals of the opportunity to prepare themselves for dealing with autistic children. Most probably, because autism is usually still characterized by low incidence relative to other disabilities, education colleges carry out not deem it as necessary to provide future teachers with specialized learning autism (Lerman et ‘s., 2001). It is also possible that deficiency of autism training in education reflects the long-standing theory and dogma rather than modifications in practices and study (Lerman et al., 2001).
Whatever the reason, the conclusions made by Lerman ainsi que al. (2001) give the basis for understanding the results of Jennett, Harris and Mesibov’ s (2003) research. Typically the researchers discovered that instructors dealing with children with autism were more susceptible to be able to the risks of strain and burnout than their particular colleagues working with healthy and balanced children (Jennett et al., 2003). The importance of these findings can scarcely be overstated as each stress and burnout could directly influence the performance of autism interventions inside teachers. The situation is particularly difficult with education professionals who feel incompetent to work with challenging clients (Jennett et ‘s., 2003). This, in change, justifies the conclusions produced by Lerman et ing. (2001) and confirms typically the need to provide long term teachers with specialized learning education colleges.
Finally, one of the key issues affecting present-day concours for individuals with autism is failure to adequately assess the efficacy and implications of various interventions. Bowler (2010) notes, that will many evaluations of autism interventions reveal serious methodological flaws create it virtually impossible to draw appropriate conclusions you should definitely way these kinds of interventions can function in current environments. Good evaluation scientific studies are equally problematic and rare, slowing the supply of quality services and support to individuals with autism (Bowler, 2010).
Theoretical Basis for the Current Interventions for Individuals with Autism
Despite the growing body of literature on autism, few authors paid considerable attention to the theoretical foundations of various behavioral and socio-emotional interventions in individuals with autism. To a large extent, only Olney (2000), Carbone, Morgenstern, Zecchin-Tirri and Kolberg (2007) and Rieffe, Terwogt and Stockman (2000) provided a more or less systematic review of the theoretical premises behind the most popular interventions and treatment methods in autism. Beginning with Olney (2000), the researcher conducted a detailed analysis of the theoretical and historical models of dealing with autism. Olney (2000) asserts that proper understanding of autism has evolved significantly over the past 50 years, giving rise to numerous models of autism and, consequentially, treatment options and interventions. Olney (2000) discusses the neurobiological model, clinical behavioral model, dyspraxia model, and social model of autism, all of which deserve professional attention in the development of behavioral and socio-emotional approaches to autism. The neurobiological model of autism treats the disorder as primarily the result of brain dysfunction (Olney, 2000). Autistic perceptions, according to this model, arise from difficulties modulating attention and arousal, problems dealing with spatial attention, etc. (Olney, 2000). The neurobiological theory of autism reinterprets autism and related symptoms through dysfunctional changes in the central nervous system (Olney, 2000).
Olney (2000) also described clinical behavioral and dyspraxia models. The former conceptualizes autism as a thematization disorder, whereas the latter is focused on the analysis of autism as a problem of communication (Olney, 2000). Based on the dyspraxia model, autism is a problem of praxis disorders rather than the problem of thought (Olney, 2000). Olney (2000) also describes the social model of autism, which treats autistic children and adults as simply different, not sick. Olney (2000) recognizes that none of these models is complete, and generally these models contribute to the current understanding of autism. Here, a brief discussion of motivation and emotions could complement the theoretical analysis of autism and its implications for autism interventions and treatment.
The topic of motivation was raised by Carbone et al. (2007). Carbone et al. (2007) suggest that the principle of motivation has been at the heart of most behavioral studies during the past 20 years. The growing interest toward motivation is justified by the expanding knowledge of motivational and learning needs of individuals with developmental disabilities (Carbone et al., 2007). Howwever, the current understanding of motivation and its relation to autism is very poor, and Carbone et al. (2007) points to the need to conduct a systematic analysis of motivation and its implication for instructional methods used in autistic individuals. Despite these inconsistencies, Carbone et al. (2007) write that behavioral approaches have proved to be effective in individuals with autism, and they facilitate the integration of individuals with autism with healthy peers in education.
For the purpose of understanding the importance of socio-emotional approaches in autism, the meaning of emotions has to be better understood. A brief discussion of emotions and their importance in the analysis of autism was provided by Rieffe et al. (2000). Rieffe et al. (2000) wrote that emotions played a pivotal role in daily contacts between individuals, and a well-known characteristic of autism is the absence of emotionally-explicit reactions to others. Rieffe et al. (2000) also made a distinction between typical and atypical emotions, which could further contribute to the analysis of behavioral interventions in individuals with autism. Unfortunately, theoretical discussions in the context of autism are rather rare. More frequent are the studies analyzing the effectiveness of various behavioral and socio-emotional approaches to autism.
Research-Based Interventions and Approaches
Theory matters, but in most instances, service providers and educators rely on the results of empirical studies and research-based strategies and interventions. The body of literature reporting the results of empirical studies constantly increases, and service providers and educators have access to numerous empirically-tested interventions and strategies. However, before these behavioral and socio-emotional interventions are discussed, it should be noted that intensive behavioral treatments can be extremely effective and cause significant behavioral improvements in individuals with autism (Schreibman, 2000). Furthermore, behavioral approaches to individuals with autism are effective only when used in carefully controlled learning situations (Schreibman, 2000). Finally, only when parents are trained to participate in the provision of behavioral interventions, these interventions can be particularly effective (Schreibman, 2000). These are the ideas and conclusions provided by Schreibman (2000), based on the extensive review of the literature.
Until present, only Simpson (2005) has been able to systematize and organize various interventions and treatment approaches in individuals with autism. The principal advantage of Simpson’s (2005) review is in that the researcher organizes his analysis around several key categories, such as the controversy and effectiveness of treatments, scientifically valid interventions and practical recommendations for parents and professionals. Simpson (2005) does not list any particular controversial interventions, but notes that these are treatment strategies that lack scientific support and cannot be considered valid. Moreover, Simpson (2005) writes that nowhere else controversial treatments and interventions are as numerous as in the autism field. Simultaneously, defining the efficacy and validity of various interventions is extremely problematic: Simpson (2005) recognizes that understanding the potential effects and implications of different interventions can be particularly problematic for parents, who may lack skills and knowledge to deal with research-based information. Even then, the researcher provides recommendations parents may follow in their analysis and choice of the most appropriate strategy.
In terms of behavioral interventions, play is cited among the most popular approaches in individuals with autism (Stahmer, Ingersoll & Carter, 2003; Wieder & Greenspan, 2010). Student-directed and self-management behavioral solutions do have the potential to increase the efficacy of other strategies (Mithaug & Mithaug, 2003). Eikeseth, Smith, Jahr and Eldevik (2002) proposed and tested the efficacy of an intensive behavioral treatment, based on the use of manual and associated videotapes. The intervention supported children as they progressed to more complex tasks and proved to be a highly relevant mechanism of dealing with individuals with autism (Eikeseth et al., 2002). However, as always, Eikeseth et al. (2002) recognize that treatments cannot be effective, unless implemented as early as possible. Educators and service providers can also use discrete trial instruction, as recommended by Carbone et al. (2007): this type of instruction, and as an element of a comprehensive program, led many autistic children to develop their cognitive and emotional functioning. In terms of emotions, Rieffe et al. (2000) recommend using theory-of-mind strategies and solutions, to facilitate the development or improve cognitive and emotional skills in autistic individuals.
Reflective Statement and Conclusion
Although autism is widely recognized as a serious and complex disorder affecting children, the current understanding of the disorder and its treatments is surrounded by controversy. Autism remains one of the poorly understood health disorders, and nowhere else have inadequate and controversial treatments been as numerous as in the autism field. Researchers generally agree that intensive behavioral and emotional treatments can be highly effective in individuals with autism, but what strategies and treatments should be used and in what conditions they are effective is difficult to determine. Therefore, future researchers should focus on the analysis of various behavioral and socio-emotional interventions and develop strategies that combine their benefits.