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Evidence-Based Practice in Homeschools for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Thursday, 2 May 2013: 14:00-18:00
Banquet Hall (Kursaal Centre)
C. A. Simmons1 and J. M. Campbell2, (1)University of Georgia, Athens, GA, (2)University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background: Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) present with unique challenges within a traditional educational environment. Interactions between parents of children with ASD and education professionals are often marked by confusion, frustration, tension, and lack of cooperation that hinder the effectiveness of service delivery. Homeschooling children with ASD has increased in popularity and is considered a viable educational option by parents. Few empirical studies have focused on homeschooling children with ASD and none have investigated how educational experiences differ between homeschooled and non-homeschooled children with ASD.

Objectives: It is important to evaluate why parents make the decision to homeschool, and what educational experiences they are providing. The overarching goal of this exploratory research is to discover what educational experiences parents are providing in order to guide homeschooling decision-making and practice for students with ASD. 

Methods: Focus groups were employed to glean preliminary information and revise a measurement instrument. Survey methodology is being employed to identify and describe: (a) parents’ reasons for choosing to homeschool children with ASD, (b) challenges of educating a child with ASD at home, (c) amount and quality of evidence-based educational practices being delivered within the homeschool environment, (d) advantages and growth parents may experience through homeschooling, (e) impact homeschooling has on families’ quality of life, (f) parent training and resources utilized, and (g) social and extracurricular opportunities for homeschooled students with ASD. The questionnaire items comprise the domains of Demographic Variables, Satisfaction with Current Educational Programming, Ancillary Services Received, Extracurricular and Social Activities, and Bully Experiences that will be compared between homeschooling (n=50) and non-homeschooling groups (n=50). Data will be reduced within each domain to yield a total score. The overall inferential statistical analysis will utilize a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to evaluate if differences exist between groups. In the presence of a significant multivariate effect, we will utilize post-hoc univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA) to test for specific differences between groups. Descriptive analysis will be conducted to determine the amount and quality of evidence-based educational practices being delivered within the homeschool environment, to asses needs in the parents’ current programming, and to document parents’ experiences homeschooling. 

Results: Data collection is in progress and will be collected with 100 participants (50 homeschoool; 50 non-homeschool). Preliminary data indicate that parents of children with ASD who homeschool feel that schools could not adequately meet their child’s needs and that the entirety of the programs they are providing are not guided by evidence-based practice for educating children with ASD.

Conclusions: The results of the current research study will hold significant relevance for improving the education of children with ASD, both in traditional schools and in homeschools. If parents of children with ASD are choosing to homeschool because of perceived weaknesses within the public education system, these findings might create a move to improve resources and training available. The results are expected to inform the development of a parent training program for parents who homeschool children with ASD to meet their identified needs.

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