“Who is the membership of the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)?”
The purpose of this Brief is to describe different roles and areas of expertise of those who find a home as members of DADD. To support this purpose, this Brief will provide a summary description of the various types of services, supports and accommodations often provided to children and youth with Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities.
Persons working with children, youth, and adults with Autism, Intellectual Disability, and other Developmental Disabilities possess a diverse range of skills, knowledge and experience addressing a wide array of disability needs. These needs are apparent in areas of academic learning, behavior management, independent living, and career/vocational preparation. Personnel may work in an array of instructional arrangements, including that of a resource specialist working with or co-teaching with other academic content teachers, special education teacher focused upon the disability needs of specific students to benefit from their education as prescribed in an IEP, and educators, and support personnel in areas of behavior management and specialized learning approaches.
The needs of students served by such personnel are very general in nature and represent a significantly broad and diverse set of conditions. A common characteristic of students is a limitation in what is called adaptive functioning; often requiring support beyond typical classroom learning interventions. Adaptive functioning includes areas such as self-help skills, functional problem solving, socialization and communication. The broad categories of these students are Autism, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, refers to a condition that includes a variety of symptoms most notably social and communication limitations. These vary across severity ranges from mild to severe. For some, their adaptive functioning limitations are influenced by the co-occurrence of lower intellectual functioning. Others, considered to have high functioning autism such as Asperger Syndrome, may have average or above score levels on IQ tests. Yet, their adaptive functioning may be compromised by limitations thought to be caused by neurological impairments related to social reasoning. Intellectual disability is a term currently used to denote individuals who have lower than average IQ scores and adaptive functioning limitations. The adaptive functioning limitations are influenced by lower intellectual abilities. Developmental disability is a broad term that is used for different purposes by various organizations and service providing agencies. Generally, it could include autism and intellectual disability but it could also include others, such as those persons with a physical disability, where their physical, and possibly intellectual, limitations influence adaptive functioning.
Because of the wide array of disabilities included in the areas of Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities, the DADD membership is also representative of a wide array of expertise and interest areas. An examination of the membership demographics of the Division confirms this, DADD members list a minimum of 25 different areas of professional expertise and interest.
As noted earlier, professionals who provide special education services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Intellectual Disability (ID), and Developmental Disabilities (DD) vary broadly in both expertise and service delivery. Teachers may provide services in schools, homes, hospitals, and many varieties of centers. Additional support is provided for teachers by paraprofessionals who have an increasing role in service delivery. CEC in collaboration with DADD and other Divisions is developing a new set of guidelines for paraprofessionals which should be available in 2011 or 2012. Professionals who are specialists in specific roles are also a part of the service provision for person with ASD, ID, and DD. This would include behavioral specialists, intervention with families, medical personnel, and those who are related service professionals in specific areas (language, physical care, emotional support). Supports provided in home settings are a cornerstone of many professionals who work with individuals with ASD, ID, and DD as is school and center-based supports. Finally, families have a key role in service acquisition and support and are highly valued by DADD.
In an effort to be proactive and to provide information to this very broad audience, DADD has established a number of avenues for information dissemination. Opportunities are provided annually for members to participate in DADD focused sessions at the Annual CEC Convention, and bi-annually the Division conducts regional and topically focused conferences targeting specific areas of need. Foremost in the area of publication, is the Division journal, Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, which provides members with a solid, research-based resource for using promising practices. Other publications that DADD provides its members include a newsletter that appears in the journal “Focus on Autism and Other Development Disabilities”. Besides the journal and newsletter, DADD has a critical issues committee that regularly develops papers on topics that are of interest to the membership. These papers allow the Division to tackle topics that are of interest to the membership or a subset of the membership. These issue papers can be found on the DADD website (www.ddd.cec.org). Of course, the Division has active committees on Diversity, Professional Standards, and Critical Issues and members are encouraged to become involved in any of these committees.