The Role of Perceived Teacher Autonomy Support in Promoting Postsecondary Education Expectations in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, May 16, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
E. A. Klinepeter1,2, W. McWherter1, S. Mazur1, C. G. Connolly1, C. M. Gatto1 and J. J. Diehl1, (1)Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, (2)School Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Background:  Both students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and peers with a non-ASD intellectual disability are at risk for poor postsecondary outcomes.  Participation in postsecondary education has the potential to improve outcomes and overall standard of life; however, lack of participation in these settings and low expectations of success remain pressing issues.  Self-determination can play an important role in promoting transition outcomes among students receiving special education services, yet little research has examined how to promote these skills among students with ASD.  Teacher autonomy support has been identified as one means by which to promote self-determination and, in turn, school-related outcomes among typically-developing students.  Thus, there is reason to believe teacher autonomy support can play an important role in promoting self-determination and postsecondary education expectations of students with ASD and their peers.

Objectives:  The purpose of this study was: 1) to examine the role of perceived teacher autonomy support in postsecondary education expectations of students with ASD and non-ASD intellectual disability, as mediated by self-determination; and 2) to compare student vs. parent reports of expected postsecondary education attendance, success, and transition planning inclusion.

Methods:  Preliminary results include 12 individuals with ASD and 5 individuals with intellectual disability between the ages of 16-21 years.  All had a primary diagnosis of ASD or intellectual disability listed on their IEP and had formally begun transition planning.  Diagnoses were independently confirmed using the Social Communication Questionnaire-Lifetime for students with ASD and the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence-Second Edition for individuals with intellectual disability.  Participants were administered three questionnaires related to perceived teacher autonomy support, self-determination, and postsecondary education expectations and transition planning.  Parents also completed the final questionnaire.

Results:  Using bootstrap regression analyses, preliminary data suggest that perceived teacher autonomy support is significantly related to students’ expectations of postsecondary education attendance, 95% CI [0.48, 198.60], and success, 95% CI [0.44, 295.45].  Self-determination partially mediated the relationship between perceived teacher autonomy support and students’ expectations of postsecondary education attendance, 95% CI [0.20, 100.33], although not success, 95% CI [-23.62, 253.88].  Additionally, parents more often reported students were included in transition planning, Χ2(1, N=17) = 4.50, p<0.05.  Parents also showed a trend toward reporting more positive expectations of postsecondary education attendance than students,  Χ2(1, N=17) = 3.36, p<0.10, although reported expectations of success did not significantly differ.

Conclusions:  Overall, we found that perceived teacher autonomy support is an important factor in promoting positive expectations of postsecondary education attendance and success among students with ASD or intellectual disability, and self-determination may play a role in this relationship.  Additionally, students are often unaware of their role in transition planning and the possibility of postsecondary education.  This study highlights the importance of targeting teacher autonomy support in classrooms and lays the groundwork for future studies that examine this vastly understudied topic - ways to promote positive postsecondary outcomes for students with an intellectual disability or ASD while still in high school.  Future studies should more fully examine school practices that lead to optimal postsecondary outcomes among students.