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Chapter 2Evidence-Based Practices for Educating Students with Autism Spectrum DisordersIntroductionAs you have learned in the previous chapter, autism is a perplexing developmental disorder characterized by severe social, communicative, and cognitive deficits (Kasari, 2002). The onslaught of children being diagnosed with autism has created a challenge for educators and therapists: how to best serve children and youth with autism and their families. Parents are often faced with the daunting task of choosing the right treatment option. Teachers are often caught between the service delivery system embraced by parents and the services the school actually provides. It is not uncommon for parents and educators to disagree about the manner in which services should be delivered. There continues to be great controversy surrounding the treatment of children and youth with autism, which can make service delivery for students with autism a difficult and complex venture (Callahan, Shukla-Mehta, Magee, & Wie, 2010; Freeman, 1997; Maurice, Green, & Luce, 1996). Whereas other disciplines may have historical or theoretical bases for generally accepted appropriate practices, autism is a relatively new field, fraught with myth and fad treatments, making it difficult to distinguish between that which is a truly viable treatment option and that which is not (see Box2.1).Although multiple treatment options are available to parents and professionals, the sometimes slow pace of the scientific process causes difficulty in discerning that which is considered truly scientific practice. In essence, there is a time lag between the development of treatments and the validation of those treatments. Many disciplines define evidence-based practicesas treatments or approaches that have been found effective through replicated research. Specifically, questions are posed, followed by the creation of a hypothesis, which is then tested. If a particular hypothesis is tested on several different occasions with different participants (in this case students with autism) and the results are favorable, then a tentative decision is made that the particular treatment in question has an evidence base. “Ultimately, such research should be able to demonstrate that there is a causal relationship between an educational intervention and immediate or long-term changes that occur in development, behavior, social
relationships, and/or normative life circumstances” (National Research Council, 2001, p. 193). Testing a hypothesis is carried out by using a particular research design. Generally, research designs can be categorized into two broad categories: single-subject designs (also known as within-subject or single-case designs) and group designs (also known as between-subject or experimental designs). Experimental designs may include matched-subject designs and control group designs and rely on appropriate reliability measures.