Evaluation of a Peer Education Program about Autism Spectrum Disorder for Elementary School Students

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
J. M. Campbell, E. Caldwell, K. A. Scheil, O. Lochner and S. Kerwin, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background:  The increased identification of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has implications for public education as access to general education and instruction in the least restrictive environment are legal rights. Approximately 30-40% of elementary school students with ASD receive at least some of their instruction in general education settings. As such, students with ASD and typically developing peers will likely encounter each other during school hours. The practice of inclusive education for students with ASD is based upon protecting children’s educational rights and, in part, improving social acceptance. Despite the potential social benefits of inclusion, students with ASD often experience limited social interaction, loneliness, social isolation, and bullying. The Kit for Kids (KfK) was developed by the Organization for Autism Research (OAR; see Figure 1) in order to provide evidence-based educational messages to elementary school students to improve peers’ knowledge, initial attitudes, and behavior towards students with ASD.

Objectives:  Investigators evaluated the impact of the KfK program on elementary school students’ knowledge of ASD and attitudes towards an unfamiliar student. Our two research questions were: (a) Does the KfK program increase elementary school students’ knowledge of ASD? and (b) Does the KfK program increase elementary school students’ attitudes towards an unfamiliar student with ASD?

Methods:  A total of 107 4th and 5thgrade students were randomly assigned to receive the KfK program or not prior to viewing a videotape of a student with ASD. Students completed two measures after viewing the videotape: (a) Knowledge of Autism (KOA; 16 items,  = .55), a general measure of knowledge of ASD; and (b) a modified version of the Children’s Attitudes towards Children with Handicaps (CATCH-A; 36 items;  = .93), a measure of attitudes about the student with ASD. One week later, controls received the KfK program and completed measures about the videotaped student while treatment participants completed measures about the student a second time.

Results:  Two, 2 (Time) by 2 (Condition) mixed-model ANOVAs revealed significant time by condition interactions for knowledge, F(1, 99) = 19.28, p < .001, = .16, and attitudes, F(1, 90) = 8.62, p < .01, = .09. The treatment group reported higher knowledge than control group immediately after intervention, t(103) = 2.65, p < .01. The control group reported more knowledge after receiving the intervention, t(53) = 5.17, p < .001. Attitudes did not differ between groups immediately after the intervention (i.e., at Time 1); however, the control group reported more favorable attitudes after receiving the intervention, t(46) = 2.11, p < .05. Treatment group attitudes declined from intervention to follow-up, t(44) = -2.04, p< .05.

Conclusions:  The KfK program resulted in increased knowledge of ASD for elementary school students. The KfK program resulted in improved attitudes over time; however, attitudes declined over a one-week period. The KfK results in improved knowledge and attitudes in an analogue experimental design; future evaluation should consist of testing the materials with actual students with ASD included in elementary school classrooms.