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Parents, Child, and Professional: Meeting the Needs of Young Autistic Children and Their Families in a Multidisciplinary Therapeutic Nursey Model

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Autism, a serious developmental disorder that presents in children Abefore the age of three, has a history of diagnostic confusion, prognostic uncertainty, and a never-ending array of treatment options. It is not at all unusual for parents to receive conflicting diagnoses if they take their atypical preschool child to several different professionals. Autism, nonautistic pervasive developmental disorder (PDD or PDD-NOS), mental retardation, developmental language disorder, attention deficit with or without hyperactivity, emotional disturbance, or static encephalopathy may be diagnosed--all in the same child. No wonder the parents are perplexed, frightened, and, in most instances, devastated.

After receiving a diagnosis of autism, parents are faced with the twin dilemmas of where to turn for a fuller understanding of this disorder and how to decide which kind of treatment would be best for their child. The choice of treatment is, of course, critical, and there are many options to choose from. One could, for example, select a behavioral therapist; a school or clinic that serves children with developmental disabilities; a professional who believes that the autistic behaviors are caused primarily by sensory disturbances, allergies, or an imbalanced metabolic system; or even a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapist. Each of these choices would involve radically different treatment options. Perhaps even more important, the role of the parents in each of these treatments would vary dramatically.

The focus of this paper is on a therapeutic nursery model for intervention with autistic and other developmentally disordered preschool children and their parents. This model has evolved over the past 20 years, during which time we have worked intensively with several hundred families and actively participated in developmental disabilities research. In the following section, we place our intervention model within the context of other types of intervention that may be offered.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Albert Einstein College

Publication date: December 15, 2000

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