Book review: “Educating young children with autism spectrum disorders”
By Angela Mann
Barton, E. E., & Harn, B. (2014). Educating young children with autism spectrum disorders. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
As the authors of this book point out, early intervention particularly impacts young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), yet few comprehensive resources currently exist to support professionals working with this population. The perspectives of a former early special education teacher and board certified behavior analyst, as well as a professor in school psychology and special education specializing in early intervention combine in Educating Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders . The authors provide practitioners with a practical review of the latest in evidence-based practice, strategies for collaboration among various team members, and a general knowledge base among readers regarding appropriate assessment strategies to improve the critical shortage of practitioners equipped to conduct such assessments.
The authors place a special emphasis on early screening and assessment, devoting nearly the first half of the book to the topic. Key early red flags, including delays in joint attention, delayed or no vocal or motor imitation skills, a lack of pretend play, and little interest in peers, are discussed in a manner that covers the breadth of variability in presentations of ASD symptomology, especially in very young children. The reader is not only given an abundance of practical screening tools, information, and sample scripts for practitioners regarding how to talk with parents about concerns related to their child's behaviors, but also a flow chart for the comprehensive evaluation process that should ensue following a positive screen for ASD. Educational eligibility, including Part C, is discussed with great detail in a manner that would be easily digestible for parents and those who are not in the education professions. Unfortunately, the medical criteria discussed in these portions of the text utilize DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) and will need to be updated as research regarding the use of the DSM-V (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) comes to light.
The book introduces best practices in instructional design and a review of evidence-based practices for working with young children diagnosed with ASDs. Of note, the authors discuss the use of several specialized curricula designed to promote school readiness including tools commonly used by behavior analysts, but, perhaps, not otherwise well-known to educational professionals. This seems essential for keeping young children with ASDs in inclusive settings where they might better benefit from good social and language models and an increased capacity for generalization of skills, given the more typical environment. The authors round out their discussion of evidence-based practices for building communication and social skills by discussing the essential components of effective consultation.
Overall, Barton and Harn accomplish their goal of educating the reader in screening, assessing, designing instruction, and implementing evidence-based practices essential to early intervention in youth with ASDs. This book is not only parent friendly, but includes vignettes, learning activities, and lists of resources that may make this text especially relevant to college-based professional preparation in fields such as education and psychology.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.