Development and Validation of a Survey of Knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 14, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
L. K. Hansen1 and T. D. Barry2, (1)University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, (2)Psychology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is more commonly diagnosed, having knowledge of the disorder becomes increasingly important for educators, parents, and the general public. Previous research regarding knowledge of ASD has found that teachers may perceive themselves as possessing average knowledge regarding ASD but have low actual knowledge regarding specific aspects of the disorder (Williams et al., 2011). However, there has been little research regarding the level of awareness concerning ASD possessed by individuals outside of the educational sphere. 


The primary goal of this study was to create a reliabile, valid measure to evaluate perceived versus actual knowledge of ASD. Furthermore, the current study also investigated factors related to ASD knowledge, including having a personal relationship with an individual with ASD, participating in ASD training, and source of ASD knowledge.   


A sample of 487 undergraduate students (86% female; 60% White, 35% Black, 5% Other race) was administered A Survey of Knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASK-ASD). The ASK-ASD original item pool was comprised of 51 items, all of which were reviewed by experts with advanced degrees from a variety of disciplines (i.e., clinical child psychology, school psychology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy). Additionally, participants were administered a demographic form, a measure of knowledge of ADHD, and a measure of knowledge of HIV/AIDS. 


Participants were moderately knowledge (65%) regarding ASD and perceived themselves to be moderately knowledgeable (M = 1.8, SD = .41). The correlation between perceived and actual knowledge was significant, r = .25, indicating a tendency for participants to accurately evaluate their own knowledge levels. An exploratory factor analysis (EFA) of the ASK-ASD revealed a two-factor structure of knowledge of ASD: Prognosis/Risk Factors Subscale (PRFS) and General Features Subscale (GFS). Twenty-eight items were deleted to facilitate the EFA and achieve simple structure. The ASK-ASD demonstrated test-retest reliability, with bivariate correlations between the first and second administrations ranging from .48 to .72. Internal consistency was adequate, with alpha values ranging from .57 to .61 for the total scale and subscales. The ASK-ASD also showed construct validity through bivariate correlations of both perceived and actual knowledge with ASD training and relationship with an individual with ASD. Furthermore, convergent validity was demonstrated through correlations between the ASK-ASD and a measure of ADHD knowledge, as well as a measure of HIV/AIDS knowledge. Moreover, significant correlations were found between gender and ethnicity with actual knowledge, r = .15 and r = -.20, respectively. 


The ASK-ASD was supported as a valid, reliable method to evaluate perceived and actual knowledge of ASD. In general, participants were moderately knowledgeable regarding ASD and could accurately perceive their own knowledge. Additionally, exploratory analyses revealed several interesting correlations between ASD knowledge, demographic characteristics, and source of ASD knowledge. Relations between gender, ethnicity, and actual knowledge indicated that female participants had higher knowledge compared to male participants and Non-White participants had lower levels of knowledge than White participants. Limitations of the study included the sample being limited to undergraduate students and the online survey format.