Evaluating Articles on Autism Spectrum Disorder

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The reason for the establishment of the National Autism Center (NAC) was to serve teenagers with Austin Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Precisely, the organization offers reliable information to families experiencing ASD, conducts research and promotes best practices for practitioners through training. Additionally, the Center focuses on defining the public policy regarding ASD and its treatment by disseminating information on national standards of practice. One of the major initiatives completed by NAC was the National Standards Project (NSP). The report aims to determine the degree of research that is available in enhancing educational and behavioral intervention for people with ASD. Besides, since the information on the effectiveness of treatment is critical, NSP strives to ensure that educators, parents, caregivers and service providers have current and reliable information when making significant treatment decisions. By identifying the limitations of the current treatment research, NSP will be moving towards extending favorable outcome for individuals with ASD.

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The NSP constitutes a measurement tool called the Scientific Merit Rating Scale. The objective of the tool is to examine the methods used in each study and their strength in determining the effectiveness of treatment for patients with ASD. This tool provides information that allows researchers to determine the credibility of the findings and whether they would anticipate similar outcome in other studies (National Autism Center, 2009). A study with variables that are well-controlled is significant to independent scholars since they can draw conclusions from the findings. In determining the effectiveness of the interventions, the following critical dimensions of experimental rigor constitute the SMRS. These dimensions include research design, participant ascertainment, measurement of independent variable, generalization, and measurement of the dependent variable.

Regarding treatments outlined in NSP report, I chose antecedent package as established treatment and the augmentative and alternative communication device as emerging treatment. The article by Akmanoglu-Uludag and Batu (2005) is among those included in the reference section of this report. Akmanoglu-Uludag and Batu (2005) focused on examining whether simultaneous prompting was an effective approach to teaching relatives names to teenagers suffering from autism. The study had four research questions, and they included the following. First, the researchers wanted to determine whether simultaneous prompting was an effective approach for teaching naming relatives to teenagers with autism. Second, the researchers wanted to examine the ability of participants to maintain what they learned after one to four weeks. The third question was to examine whether participants would generalize skills learned across materials, settings, and trainers. Lastly, researchers wanted to understand the perception of participants’ parents regarding the social validity of the study.

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In the case of an article by Akmanoglu-Uludag and Batu (2005), the SMRS rating for dependent variable is 3. The dependent variable was the percentage of correctly naming relatives and the rating is at 3 because the inter-observer reliability was over 80 percent. Precisely, according to Akmanoglu-Uludag and Batu (2005), the dependent variable reliability for the two participants, Faruk and Orphan was 96.5% and 98.2% respectively. The agreement indicated constituted the full probe, training and maintenance and generalization session. Researchers collected the reliability data in at least 20 percent of all the sessions. The number of training sessions was 27. The type of measurement used was observation based measurement. Before the start of the experiment, the observer was informed about collecting reliability data. The observer, a doctoral student in special education, had experience in teaching teenagers with autism, which helped in data collection.

Conversely, the independent variable used was simultaneous prompting procedure. The SMRS rating is at 4 because the implementation accuracy is over 80 percent. Precisely, the procedural reliability indicated that the trainer implemented the planned steps with an accuracy of 100 percentage for the two participants. Moreover, the implementation of the plan was measured in at least 20% of all the session. Regarding the treatment fidelity, the inter-observer reliability was not reported. However, Mandell, et al. (2013), assert that its role is to monitor and enhance the accuracy and consistency of behavioral intervention. By enhancing the reliability and validity of an intervention, treatment fidelity ensures that the implementation process goes on as planned.

Dyches (1998) wrote an interesting article on augmentative and alternative communication systems. In the article, Dyches (1998) examined two phases of the impact of switch training including natural communicative treatment and the use of switch-activated communication device. The study included four elementary students with severe disabilities. The research question was to determine the effectiveness of switch training on helping students communicate a simple message (Dyches, 1998). In this experiment, the dependent variables were the percentage of independent communicative interactions, the number of communicative interactions, the number of spontaneous communicative variable and number of verbalizations (Dyches, 1998). The SMRS rating for dependent variable is 5 because the inter-observer reliability was over 90 percent. Also, the percentage of sessions was over 25%. Precisely, in this experiment, the total number of days allocated was 52; however, the interrater agreement assessment took place in 21 days, which estimates to 40.38% of the total sessions.

The independent variable used in this study was the coincidental instruction of activating a switch to show the desire to obtain a drink. The SMRS rating is at 1 because the researcher did not mention the treatment fidelity, which would have determined the validity and reliability of an intervention. Moreover, in the case of control condition, its operational definition was given as follows. For instance, the switch instructions followed 20 to 25 minutes of individuals or group tasks.

In conclusion, the NSP initiative is significant since it will benefit parents, caregivers, educators and service providers since they would be required to make informed decisions about treatment selection. Moreover, the existence of the NAC is a boost to families, practitioners, and communities because of its role as a source of resources, reliable information, and best practices. Regarding the SMRS scores for the two articles, the dependent and independent variables that had the ratings of 3, 4, or 5 showed that the study had sufficient scientific rigor. Therefore, researchers can draw inferences about the impact of treatment on individuals with ASD. Additionally, with these scores, researchers are likely to obtain similar results in a study that employed better or equal methods. A score of 1 indicated that the study had insufficient evidence to show the effectiveness of treatment.

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  1. Akmanoglu-Uludag, N., & Batu, S. (2005). Teaching naming relatives to individuals with autism using simultaneous prompting. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 40(4), 401-410.
  2. Dyches, T. T. (1998). Effects of switch training on the communication of children with autism and severe disabilities. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 13(3), 151-162.
  3. Mandell, D. S., Stahmer, A. C., Shin, S., Xie, M., Reisinger, E., & Marcus, S. C. (2013). The role of treatment fidelity on outcomes during a randomized field trial of an autism intervention. Autism, 17(3), 281-295.
  4. National Autism Center (2009). National standards project–addressing the needs for evidence-based practice guidelines for autism spectrum disorders. Randolph, Massachusetts.
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