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Multidisciplinary Teamwork in Autism: Can One Size Fit All?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2014

Karola Dillenburger*
School of Education, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Hanns-Rüdiger Röttgers
School of Social Sciences, University of Applied Science, Germany
Katerina Dounavi
School of Education, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Coleen Sparkman
Kendall School & Therapeutic Pathways, Inc., USA
Mickey Keenan
School of Psychology, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland
Bruce Thyer
School of Social Work, Florida State University, USA
Christos Nikopoulos
School of Health Sciences and Social Care, Brunel University, UK
Address for correspondence should be addressed to: Karola Dillenburger, School of Education, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Email:
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Multidisciplinary practice has become an accepted approach in many education and social and health care fields. In fact, the right to a multidisciplinary assessment is enshrined in the United Nations Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (United Nations, 2007). In order to avert a ‘one size fits all’ response to particularly heterogeneous diagnoses, such as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends multidisciplinary input. Yet, multidisciplinarity lacks empirical evidence of effectiveness, is fraught with conceptual difficulties and methodological incompatibilities, and therefore there is a danger of resorting to an ill-defined eclectic ‘hodgepodge’ of interventions. Virtually all evidence-based interventions in autism and intellectual disabilities are behaviourally based. Not surprisingly, therefore, professionals trained in behaviour analysis to international standards are increasingly becoming key personnel in multidisciplinary teams. In fact, professionals from a range of disciplines seek training in behaviour analysis. In this article we brought together a multidisciplinary group of professionals from education, health, and social care, most of whom have a dual qualification in an allied health, social care, or educational profession, as well as in behaviour anlaysis. Together we look at the initial training in these professions and explore how behaviour analysis can offer a common and coherent conceptual framework for true multidisciplinarity, based on sound scientific knowledge about behaviour, without resort to reifying theories. We illustrate how this unifying approach can enhance evidence-based multidisciplinary practice so that ‘one size’ will fit all.

Copyright © Australian Psychological Society Ltd 2014 

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