International Meeting for Autism Research: Practitioner Feedback on An Evolving Classroom-Based Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism

Practitioner Feedback on An Evolving Classroom-Based Intervention for Preschoolers with Autism

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
K. P. Wilson1, J. Dykstra1, L. R. Watson1, B. Boyd1, E. R. Crais1, G. T. Baranek1, T. W. Lenhardt1 and S. Flagler2, (1)University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, (2)Wake County Public School System, Raleigh, NC
Background: Research has established the lasting effects of early behavioral interventions targeting joint attention or symbolic play skills on later language skills of children with autism (Kasari et al., 2006, 2008). In line with these findings, our research team has collaborated with educational practitioners (i.e., teachers, teaching assistants, related service providers) and student clinicians in an iterative process of developing a classroom-based intervention program targeting early play and social communication skills in preschoolers with autism. This process, funded by a development grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, has spanned four years and four sequential phases of implementation. Feedback from practitioners and students has shaped the training, manual, coaching support, and materials that constitute the resulting Advancing Social-Communication and Play (ASAP) Intervention Program. This presentation will illustrate the valuable and informative experiences, preferences, and suggestions of participating practitioners and how they influenced the development of ASAP into a promising intervention program suited to public preschool classrooms serving children with autism.   

Objectives: (a) To illustrate the real-life experiences of educational practitioners’ in shaping, learning, and adopting a novel intervention program targeting pivotal skills of young students with autism (b) To describe the feedback provided in order to develop an intervention program suitable for public preschool classrooms serving students with autism.   

Methods: Using a four-phase iterative process, the ASAP intervention was developed and refined through stages of increasingly complex implementation, with Phase 1 involving implementation of only one ASAP component (i.e., one-to-one intervention) and Phase 4 constituting full implementation of the refined ASAP intervention. Feedback from participating practitioners and students was collected following each phase through focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Feedback was categorized by question/probe (e.g., training, coaching, implementation, teams and administration) and themes were derived from each phase’s feedback through qualitative review of data and a grounded theory-based analytic approach.

Results: Themes that emerged from practitioner feedback across phases included the following: Desire for straightforward written information with high levels of organization; need for clear delineation of roles and expectations; positive impact of coaching relationship; time and staff constraints; lack of administrative support; positive impact on all students; difficulty of data collection; and interest in collaboration across schools. This presentation will make clear the myriad ways in which this feedback influenced and shaped the resulting ASAP intervention and its supporting materials, including substantial changes made to the manual, the training, and the coaching model.

Conclusions: The promise of ASAP as a public school-based intervention for preschoolers with autism is intrinsically linked to the feedback our research team received from community practitioners in the development process. In addition, the feedback provided to the ASAP research team has implications for other autism intervention efforts in public school settings.   

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