A three-year study is underway in 11 counties in Kentucky and Indiana to evaluate an autism education model that seeks to use a consultative model to train classroom teachers to work with children with autism spectrum disorders. The study, funded by a $450,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, involves following the progress of kids from 20 different families. The Louisville Courier-Journal yesterday reported about this research into the model, called the "Collaborative Model for Promoting Competence and Success" in yesterday's newspaper. You can read a copy of the article, "New teaching method may aid autistic students," by clicking here.
Lisa Ruble is a psychologist and autism researcher who directs a program at the University of Louisville called the Systematic Treatment of Autism and Related Disorders (STAR). She wrote short paper describing this approach which you can read here.
This paper, which covers some issues like social interactions and conversational skills that a child with autism often needs to acquire, would be good background reading for parents who are just learning about the issues that they will need to discuss when they go to set up an individualized education plan (IEP) for their child in school. However, it's unclear how this model of providing consultants to train teachers would work for a broad array of teachers, not to mention a broad array of autism cases, without more time and resources devoted to training the teachers -- and more hands-on help and supervision for them in the classroom than is described here. In other words, the goals are good but the plans for making it work appear rather thin. It will be interesting to follow up after the study period ends in 2008 to see the results.
It's also interesting to note that the Courier-Journal article quoted a co-founder of an autism services group called Turning Point for Autism, which is affiliated with the Center for Autism in Tarzana, Calif., and provides applied behavioral analysis services to children on the autism spectrum. Betsy Gibbs told the newspaper that ABA is a method already shown to help kids learn. "Sometimes you don't want to reinvent the wheel," Gibbs told the newspaper.