8 - Behavioral and educational approaches to the pervasive developmental disorders  pp. 255-268

Behavioral and educational approaches to the pervasive developmental disorders

By Sandra L. Harris

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Our understanding of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) has radically altered in the past 40 years. The initial recognition that these are biologically based conditions (Rimland, 1964), and rejection of the psychoanalytic concept of parental blame as an explanatory mechanism (Bettelheim, 1967), created an intellectual context in which behavioral and educational interventions could take root. Beginning with demonstrations by Ferster (1961), Lovaas et al. (1966), and Bartak and Rutter (1971) that principles of learning influenced the behavior of these clients, there developed an appreciation of highly structured, carefully planned interventions to meet the needs of people with autistic disorder and related conditions. Since the mid 1960s the teaching technology for this population has grown increasingly sophisticated and effective.

This chapter reviews the state of the art in behavioral and educational treatments for people with PDDs. The focus is on assessment and treatment of skill deficits, especially language and social skills, and intervention with dangerous or disruptive behaviors, such as self-injury or aggression. The behavioral technology for early intervention is addressed, as are the controversial treatment approaches of facilitated communication and auditory integration therapy. Finally, the need to consider the family context in which treatment takes place is discussed.

This chapter is based on research with people diagnosed as exhibiting autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).