Friday, July 2, 2010

Program Review: The STAR (Strategies for Teaching Based on Austim Research) Program

Title: The STAR Program (Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research) Contributors: Joel R. Arick, Lauren Loos, Ruth Falco, David A. King
Publisher: pro-ed (


Over the past year the distribution of my class has gone from having one out of nine students on the Autism spectrum to having five out of ten on the Autism spectrum this fall.  My class... it is a changin'!  With this change I have been seeking out more resources that are autism-specific to use.  I have gathered severl books along the way that addess teaching techniques such as discrete trial training and pivotal response training but without concrete approaches I hae struggled to implement the approaches appropriately.

This program is not cheap - approximately $325 per level and there are three levels (although you can buy the three levels together for about $850).  I would venture to think that people who are trained in the area of autism and have their heads fully wrapped around these concepts might find the program to be a bit of a waste of money as they may be able to put the materials together for a small fraction of the cost.  For me, its a goldmine!

The program itself is broken up in to six components:

  1. Receptive Language Concepts
  2. Expressive Language Concepts
  3. Spontaneous Language Concepts
  4. Functional Routines
  5. Preacademic Concepts
  6. Play and Social Interaction Concepts
The concepts focused on are the ones that children on the spectrum tend to struggle with.  Many of the students that I currently have are non-verbal but two of them are echolaic.  For the non-verbal ones I'm modifying the expressive language goals a bit and pulling in concepts from the Picture Exchange Communication System (Lori Frost, M.S., CSS/SLP and Andy Bondy, Ph. D.) instead.  I'm also looking to supplement the spontaneous language area with approaches from the book that I posted about yesterday.
There are three main teaching/learning approaches that are used in this program: Discrete Trial Training, Pivotal Response Training and Functional Routines Training. There are good solid explanations of the methods as well as tracking forms, suggestions and task break downs included in the program.

Overall it seems it will be fairly easy to take the program out of the box, do a few things in preparation and be able to use the program this fall.  You start with an assessment (five of them are included in the box) to see where the child should start and then each area has file folders explaining the tasks to do at each step.  The person working with the student would go to the appropriate folder and start working.

To me the program seems more suited to younger children.  I will not be using it with my students who are above grade 4 and I'm thinking that mostly it would be used with preschool aged children.  I will use bits and pieces with modifications for some of my older students though.

Finally, it appears to me that this program pretty much has to be done in a one-on-one setting because of the intensity of interactions involved.  I am fortunate that I have that one-on-one ratio in my room and it is doable.  Still, its not an all day every day program and time could have been worked out to find one-on-one sessions even without the ratio we have now.

If anyone out there has used this program, I would love to hear you feedback.  I will post more as I start to use it this fall :).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post. Yes, I totally agree with you that the dynamics of our classrooms are changing to include more students with ASD. The Star kit seems to provide a good guide. I have the DVDs and the program manual, just hoping someone out there is willing to sell a used Star kit, so far no luck. Are you still using your kit? How many years have you used it? Dropping 1K out of my pocketbook for all 3 kits is pricey. Hopefully someone out there is willing to sell there used Star Kit 1-2 or 3 since the new version 2.0 just hit the market.