Statewide Assessment of Teachers' Perceptions Related to Educating Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Friday, May 13, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
S. E. Blumberg1, W. A. Loring1, H. Huber2, E. M. Kuntz2, V. F. Knight2, L. J. Garrett1 and P. Juarez1, (1)Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, (2)Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Background:  Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often receive services through state Departments of Education IDEA Programs. Federal legislation calls for educators serving these students to use evidence-based practices (EBPs). The process of identifying and correctly implementing EBPs has become increasingly demanding for educators working with students with ASD. As such, preparation and training in EBPs for educators is a pressing need.

Objectives:  This program evaluation gathered educators’ perceptions on the importance and level of preparedness across instructional areas, use of instructional practices, access to training or resources on EBPs for individuals with ASD and perceived comfort when implementing EBPs before and after training.

Methods:  A survey was sent to special educators in Local Education Agencies across a state in the southeastern United States serving in Preschool through High School settings. Questions included frequency of usage of EBPs as defined by the National Professional Development Center on ASD, sources of training on these practices, factors influencing the selection of practices, and instructional skills. In an additional phase, educators attending ASD specific training sessions were instructed to self-report perceived comfort regarding implementation of specific EBPs, both before and after training.


A total of 535 special educators provided complete survey responses. Educators indicated the following non-academic areas were very important to teach - social skills (91.6%), communication (87.3%), daily living skills (86.7%), self-determination (75.5%), and vocational skills (72.7%). However, there was a notable decrease in the percent who indicated feeling very prepared to teach these subjects (social skills: 56.1%, communication: 42.4%, daily living skills: 55.3%, self-determination: 43.7%, and vocational skills: 24.1%).

Reported frequency of utilizing EBPs when teaching was variable ranging from 12.4% - 88.8% being used at least weekly. The most frequently reported were modeling (88.8%), Picture Exchange Communication System (68.6%), ABA-based interventions (67.8%), cognitive behavioral intervention (60.2%), and visual supports (61.1%). Despite reported use, participants reported having no access to training (e.g., live/online trainings, print/electronic resources) for those most frequently used EBPs –(modeling:42.8%, Picture Exchange Communication System: 56.1%, ABA-based interventions:49.0%, cognitive behavioral intervention:57.2%, and visual supports:54.2%). Additional data regarding EBPs educators reported using most and least will be presented.

Additional data on perceived confidence in implementing EBPs prior to and following receiving ASD specific training is under analysis. Preliminary results indicate participants reported higher confidence levels in implementing specific EBPs correctly before receiving training than they reported after receiving training.

Conclusions:  The preliminary results of this project indicate educators statewide recognize the importance of students with ASD receiving instruction in core content areas and non-academic areas, however many feel they lack preparedness to do so. Teachers report implementing EBPs in classrooms but not having access to training and resources. Furthermore, reported levels of confidence were noted to decrease immediately after receiving training, indicating educators may not be implementing the reported EBPs with fidelity or fully comprehending accurate means of implementation. Therefore, the need to provide focused and ongoing training and support for educators in these areas is crucial.