Available Classroom Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Public Schools




Sandford, Cheryl A.

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A mixed-methods study was conducted to determine teacher attitudes concerning classroom supports for students with autism spectrum disorders available in public school. A national sample of randomly-selected educators serving preschool through age in public school settings responded to a web-based survey designed to determine the quantity and quality of research-validated supports that are available to students with autism spectrum disorders in a variety of public school settings nationwide. A representative subsample of respondents participated in follow-up interviews. The survey included personal and professional demographic items and four content-based subscales, which addressed autism classroom and instructional supports. Strong internal consistency was reported on all subscales. The autism classroom supports reported being used most frequently included structured learning environments, visual supports, access to general education curriculum, behavior intervention plans, curriculum designed to address core deficits, educational paraprofessional support, and positive behavior supports. These supports were rated as very or somewhat important by a large majority of respondents. Special educators reported using significantly more supports than general educators. Respondents perceived that a greater number and variety of supports were available in special than in general education settings. Knowledge of, experience with, and training in autism yielded statistically significant effects on the number and types of supports the participants reported using. Individuals who reported training from university coursework and professional development training demonstrated no significant difference in total use of supports, but each were significantly greater than those without training in autism. Quantitative and qualitative results confirmed that practical, hands-on training with students with autism may increase teachers’ confidence in implementing appropriate classroom and instructional supports. A majority of respondents expressed opinions that autism classroom and instructional supports should be based upon individual assessment of each student’s strengths and needs and that these supports should be available regardless of the educational setting. Overall findings indicated that positive attitudes toward the use of autism supports were perhaps necessary, but not sufficient, to guarantee their regular use. Findings are discussed with respect to educational implications and future research.



Autism, Teaching, Inclusion, Accommodations