Some Thoughts on the Evolving Arena of Autism Services


It has been a mere four decades since autism emerged from the pernicious cul-de-sac of psychoanalytic conceptualization into the realm of constructive, systematic research, and real-life problem solving. It was in the 1960s that (1) Bernard Rimland (1964) published his ground-breaking book, "Infantile Autism"; (2) the National Society of Autistic Children (now the Autism Society of America) was founded; (3) the first empirical evidence of instrumental learning by children with autism was revealed by Ferster and DeMyer (1962); and (4) pioneering applied researchers, such as Lovaas, Berberich, Perloff, and Schaeffer (1966) and Wolf, Risley, and Mees (1965), began using the principles of learning to produce socially meaningful improvements in the behavior of children with autism. Since then, astonishing changes have occurred in the people's understanding of autism and their ability to deliver helpful supports and services. In this essay, the author shares his comment on two topics--families of children with autism and systems of service delivery--that are reflective of the massive changes that have occurred in the world of autism. He reflects on matters broader than the boundaries of data-based research reports, of which both Bryson et al. (2007) and McMahon, Malesa, Yoder, & Stone (2007) are excellent examples.


Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (RPSD)


  • Glen Dunlap

Prevention Level

  • Tertiary


  • Administrators
  • Parents
  • PBS Coaches
  • Specialists

System Impact

  • Individual Student


  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Elementary School
  • Families