The foundations section of the handbook takes a medical model approach, generally indicating the need for a multidisciplinary approach, but focusing on the contributions of psychologists. There is a comprehensive coverage of diagnostic criteria, etiology, epidemiology, and an overview of interventions for a variety of disorders, including intellectual disabilities, genetic disorders, pediatric brain injury, and cerebral palsy. Most chapters are excellent, research-based overviews. The chapter on autism spectrum disorders, unfortunately, gives short shrift to the research findings on the efficacy of applied behavior analysis with this population, noting only that ‘Some parents … seem to find this very helpful.’ (p. 55).
The book addresses head-on the question of terminology, noting that much research is still indexed using the term ‘mental retardation’, and using that term when referring to historical and medical sources that still use the term. Throughout the rest of the book, the more modern term ‘intellectual disabilities’ is used. One chapter directly addresses social acceptance and reviews the research on attitude change, with recommendations for schools on increasing acceptance of children with ID.
One section provides a broad overview of services and professional roles in the field of developmental disabilities, beginning with a chapter on program evaluation. The chapter on educational services presents the viewpoint that special education must continue to be special, that is, individualized, and that the focus on improvement must be on instruction and outcomes, rather than an increase in inclusion in general education classrooms. A balancing chapter reviewing research outcomes of full inclusion would have been welcome. An overview chapter on residential and day services for adults with ID points up the lack of oversight and research in this area, as well as a serious shortage of trained professionals and placements for adults needing services. The chapter on services for older adults with ID focuses on psychology, and as such, covers comprehensive assessment well, with recommendations for appropriate instruments, and covers issues of aging and how those may be similar and different in those older adults with ID. The chapter on behavioral–clinical consultation is a welcome introduction to a role that will be increasingly important in providing appropriate services to individuals with developmental disabilities as the need for services expands. This section ends with an overview of legal decisions affecting those with ID, which, though brief, does cover the most important aspects.
The articles in the assessment and diagnosis section are focused, rely heavily on research, and organize and conceptualize the material in such a way as to provide an invaluable guide for the practitioner. Coverage of measures is generally up to date and also contains appropriate caveats and limitations, and points out areas where clinical judgment and further research and development are necessary. There is a helpful emphasis on dynamic assessment and contextual evaluation rather than merely covering psychometric and analog measures. Assessment instruments and techniques for different purposes, such as diagnosis and program planning, are delineated. The usefulness of assessments for persons with ID is addressed, leading to recommendations for lesser-known instruments that are more appropriate for use with this population. Cultural issues are also addressed where appropriate. There is a broad coverage of types of assessments, making this a handbook that can be used by a wide range of practitioners in a wide range of settings.
A section on prevention and treatment begins with an overview of empirically supported treatments, another reflection of the strong research base of the book. A review of current guidelines for evaluating treatments and an excellent overview of their limitations lead to specific recommendations for the field of ID, including the need for practitioners to embrace empirical findings and for further exploration of the appropriateness of interventions in social, cultural, and ethical terms. The following chapters address individual and small group interventions for a wide variety of conditions and behaviors, including focused summaries of research findings on efficacy and effectiveness.
There are two chapters in the ethics section. The first is a brief overview of a number of specific ethical situations and dilemmas present in the field of ID. While brief, it summarizes the extant literature well and ends without artificial conclusions or consensus. The second is a discussion of ethics from the behavioral orientation, and is a clearer, more detailed elucidation of this position than I have seen elsewhere. This should provoke discussion, and perhaps understanding, between behavior analysts and practitioners with other orientations.
Although the handbook is not specifically targeted at neuropsychologists, it will provide a handy overview and reference book for those working with persons who are suffering from intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its thorough coverage and strong research base make it especially valuable. It does not suffer from a common failing of edited books, as there is little overlap among the chapters and nearly all of them are comprehensive and of high quality. The few quibbles I have with content coverage do not keep me from strongly recommending this handbook for students and practitioners working with persons affected by intellectual and developmental disabilities.