AUTISTIC CHILDREN CAN LEARN: A PUBLIC SCHOOL PROGRAM FOR AUTISTIC CHILDREN
The purpose of the present study was to analyze the Fairfax County Public School Autistic Program and to use this analysis to revise and expand the current Autistic Program Handbook. In the winter of 1972, the Fairfax County Public School System opened its first class for autistic children. This Autistic Program was one of the first public school programs for autistic children in the country. The Fairfax County School System believes that autism is a developmental disability. "Creak's Nine Points" (Creak, 1964) and the National Society for Autistic Children's "Definition of the Syndrome of Autism" (Ritvo & Freeman, 1977) are accepted as the determining criteria for program placement. The Fairfax County Public School Autistic Program focuses upon remediation of the child's deficits. Behavior modification techniques are utilized by all teachers in the program to produce new behaviors; increase and maintain existing, appropriate behaviors; and reduce socially inappropriate behaviors. This is the major treatment paradigm used by the Fairfax County Public School Autistic Program. With the impetus of P.L. 94-142, a study such as this became a necessity. It was the intention of the author to devise a new descriptive handbook for the autistic program. The handbook will serve as a guide for the Fairfax County Autistic Program administrators, teachers, and parents. Further, it may be a model for other school systems anticipating the development of their own programs for autistic children. The program manager, teachers, and selected parents were questioned concerning their views regarding the present autistic program. Questions related to the areas of assessment, management techniques, reporting and recording data, curriculum considerations, teaching techniques, classroom organization, staff, and parent programs. Therefore, the newly revised handbook is structured in a similar manner, incorporating input from all sources consulted. The results of these structured interviews indicate that the current 1974 handbook contains much outdated material. Although the 1974 handbook covers most essential components, it is not designed specifically for the parents and teachers in the autistic program. It serves more as a general administrative guide to persons seeking information regarding a program for autistic children. General responses in all areas by both parents and teachers indicated a need for greater consistency and uniformity within the autistic program. This consistency is accomplished by the newly revised handbook.