The Autism Classroom Evaluation (ACE): A Tool for Evaluating Services and to Guide Training in Autism Classrooms

Friday, May 16, 2014
Atrium Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Atlanta)
D. Zavatkay1 and S. Cleveland2, (1)Marcus Autism Center, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, (2)Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, atlanta, GA
Background: Increasingly children with autism are being educated in specialized classrooms designed to sympathetic to the needs of this population and to address the unique cluster of symptoms. Often, educational staff lacks expertise specific to autism needed to effectively implement complex strategies recommended. Thus, a thorough evaluation tool is needed to identify strengths and needs of existing educational and behavioral services at the classroom level, to ascertain what consultation and training services are necessary, and to facilitate prioritization of the services. The Autism Classroom Evaluation (ACE) was developed to meet these needs.

Objectives: The purpose of this study is to validate the ACE as a tool for reliably assessing strengths and weaknesses of classroom based services for children with autism and guiding training and consultation services.

Methods: The ACE is used to assess aspects of classroom environment, skill acquisition programming, inclusion opportunities, and behavior management strategies in the individual classroom. Specific aspects of 12 constructs are evaluated in accordance with standards of practice for educating children with autism. All items are scored on a 5-point Likert scale yielding an average score for each construct. The ACE will be completed in 20 classrooms by educational consultants via direct observation and staff interviews in classrooms for children with autism in both the public and private school settings. Overall results of the ACE will be presented describing the integrity of educational services available and to illustrate differences between scores obtained in classrooms with little or no outside training/consultation services and those with more extensive opportunities. Inter-rater, test-retest, parallel-forms, and internal consistency reliability will be assessed and results presented.

Results: Preliminary data suggest that overall classroom environment and scheduling appear to be relative strengths. It seems that the majority of classrooms are organized and uncluttered with appropriate areas designated for differing education and leisure activities. The weakest areas were seen when evaluating NET/generalization/maintenance programming, inclusion opportunities, and using data to track skill acquisition. In addition, across all levels behavior assessment and management were significant weakness areas. Data collection and analysis was a significant deficit in almost all classrooms observed. Data collection was not only inconsistent, it was non-existent.Preliminary data have also shown that the ACE differentiates between classrooms that have received more intense consultation and training services from those that have not across all domains. This indicates a strong need for additional training and consultation for educational staff. Additional data are being gathered in order to more fully establish the reliability of the ACE and viability of using this tool to evaluate programs and to guide consultative services.

Conclusions: The data show that this form is a valuable tool to assess quality of the services provided in classrooms being designed for children with autism and as a tool to guide the consultation and training of the educational staff. Additional data will show the psychometric properties of this tool to better illustrate the utility of its use and subsequent improvements in educational services for children with autism.

See more of: Services
See more of: Services