International Meeting for Autism Research: The Relationship Between Classroom Climate and Intervention Fidelity

The Relationship Between Classroom Climate and Intervention Fidelity

Friday, May 21, 2010: 5:30 PM
Grand Ballroom F Level 5 (Philadelphia Marriott Downtown)
4:45 PM
H. E. Dingfelder , Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
S. Shin , School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
D. S. Mandell , Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
Background: Interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders that have proven efficacious in research settings generally have not been effectively implemented in community settings. Challenges to successful implementation of interventions are apparent in AIMS (Autism Instructional Methods Study), an ongoing, randomized trial designed to test the effectiveness of an efficacious, teacher-delivered, curriculum-based intervention for children enrolled in autism support classrooms in a large, urban school district. Early observations suggest that a key reason for this variability is the extent to which the teachers perceive that their use of the intervention is expected, supported, and rewarded by their supervisors and other classroom staff. This shared perception is referred to as the organization’s implementation climate. While a rich literature examines the role of the implementation climate in business settings, there is little study of the unique implementation climate in health and human services in general, and special education settings for autism specifically.

Objectives: The primary aim of this study is to examine the relationship between the climate of autism support classrooms in a large urban school district and the initial implementation of an evidence-based intervention. It is predicted that a strong classroom climate for the implementation of the intervention will lead to teachers’ consistent, committed, and skilled use of the intervention. This commitment (known in the organizational literature as implementation effectiveness) is reflected in teachers’ program fidelity, or the extent to which they deliver the intervention as intended by the program developers. To study this, we examine the relationship between 1) administrative and education support staff's acceptance of the intervention and 2) the climate of autism support classrooms and the implementation of an evidence-based intervention.

Methods: School principals and classroom assistants reported their acceptance of and support for the intervention, and teachers reported on classroom implementation climate. Baseline program fidelity was measured by videoing teachers implementing the program components in their classrooms. Coding strategies developed and validated for assessing the integrity of behavioral interventions for children with ASD in classrooms settings were used to provide quantitative, validated measures of the integrity of teaching methods. Trained research assistants and undergraduate students blind to study condition coded the tapes based on different criteria for each teaching technique.

Results: Data are currently being collected and analyzed. Results will be available by the time of presentation.

Conclusions: Studying the relationship between classroom climate and intervention fidelity is a key step in advancing our understanding of the best ways to support the implementation of efficacious autism interventions in special education settings. This study provides a strong foundation for intervention research targeting organizational climate as a way to support the implementation of evidence-based autism interventions, with the goal of improving services and outcomes for children with autism.