The Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET) is designed to assist schools in developing practices from initial referral to program development and implementation with a strong emphasis on research-based and peer-reviewed strategies. The evaluation section is divided into categories of evaluation. The categories are: Academic Achievement, Adaptive Behavior, Autism Screening, Cognition, Developmental, Emotional and Behavioral, Functional Behavioral, Motor, Sensory, Social Relationship, Speech language, Transition Vocational, and Other.
Within each category, there is an introduction that includes a brief description of the assessment category and the information it can yield for eligibility and/or programming. The category introduction also includes a table of misconceptions and highlights commonly held myths and realities about a given assessment category.
For each category, there is a separate document for each assessment measure reviewed. The individual assessment documents include an overview of the specific assessment measure, a summary table describing the assessment, autism-related research, and references. The summary table includes: (a) the name of the assessment, the author, and the publication date; (b) the age range (in years) for the children with whom the assessment should be used; (c) the method or format for the administration of the assessment; (d) the approximate time to administer the assessment; (e) the test’s subscales; and (f) information about where the assessment can be purchased. The individual assessments within each category does not reflect an endorsement or a mandate. Decisions about which assessments and interventions to use are left to qualified individuals or committees charged with reviewing and creating programs for students with autism.
Identifying and implementing appropriate evidence-based practices (EBP) are important priorities for persons working with individuals with ASD. The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (Wong et al., 2014) and the National Autism Center (NAC, 2015) have both published systematic reviews of intervention practices for children and youth on the spectrum. The Texas Autism Resource Guide for Effective Teaching (TARGET) summarizes the work of these organizations and reviews additional literature that was published from January 2013 through July 2015.
To meet criteria for EBP in autism (ASD or AU), research involving participants who have ASD must be published in peer-reviewed journals and such research must come from more than one author. Further, scientific evidence must be established separately for each age group (0–5, 6–14, and 15–22) and skill (e.g., social, communication, behavior, joint attention, play, cognitive, school readiness, academic, motor, vocational, and mental health). This means that not all EBPs have established scientific evidence for all age groups and skills an educator might need to address with his or her ASD learners. Accordingly, each TARGET brief states the age level and skills that meet evidence-based criteria for each practice reviewed. In addition, the TARGET project reviews emerging practices with some support but that do not yet meet the criteria for EBP. The information provided is not associated with any endorsement or mandate of a given practice.
It is noteworthy that scientific evidence is just one component of EBP. True EBP requires that scientific evidence be viewed through the lens of professional expertise/experience and child/caregiver characteristics (Dollaghan, 2007; Odom, Collete-Klingenberg, Rogers, & Hatton, 2010). Therefore, not all EBPs are right for all children with ASD. The best measure of an intervention’s effectiveness is whether it is effective for a particular individual. It is of the utmost importance to collect and analyze data when using interventions with a student with autism. If an intervention results in positive change for a particular student and you, as an educational professional, have data to support that outcome, then the intervention is evidence-based for that student. Moreover, EBPs will not be successful if support for the intervention is not available within the school and community (Odom, 2009). School support is an especially important consideration when children with ASD are integrated into general education classrooms.