Teacher Perceptions and the Implementation of Jasper for Students with ASD
Objectives: We aimed to investigate how teachers’ perceptions about students with ASD influenced use of joint engagement strategies during dyadic play interactions. We examined how teachers perceived students’ ability to control their ASD related behaviors, and how this perception relates to joint engagement strategies.
Methods: Data were analyzed from a study implementing a targeted social communication intervention (JASPER) in preschools (Chang, Shire, Shih, Gelfand, & Kasari, 2016). Participants included 66 preschool students with ASD (mean age = 48 months), 82% male, and from diverse ethnic backgrounds (12.1% African American, 30.3% Caucasian, 18.2% Latino, 15.2% Asian, and 18.2% other). Twelve teachers from six ASD preschool classrooms located around the Los Angeles area participated. The schools were randomized to receive teacher training or placed on a waitlist. Pre-intervention, teachers completed questionnaires rating their students’ effortful control over behaviors associated with ASD: social interaction, non-verbal communication, repetitive interests/behaviors, and sensory seeking behavior. For these four domains, teachers read a description of behaviors associated with ASD, and rated each child (1-5) on their ability to control those behaviors. Scores across all four domains were totaled to create a composite score representing teachers’ perceptions of each student’s ability to control ASD related behaviors (M = 3.06, SD = .988). Teachers and students were filmed during a ten-minute play interaction, before and after receiving JASPER training. Videotapes were scored for use of strategies to promote joint engagement during play, resulting in overall teacher strategies scores.
Results: First, multiple regression analysis from pre-intervention was conducted on the entire sample. At entry, teachers’ perceptions of a student’s ability to control ASD behavior predicted overall teacher strategies scores, accounting for students’ expressive language ability (β = .064, p = .01). Teachers’ perceptions accounted for an additional 14% of variance in teacher strategies scores (∆R2 = .144). A separate regression analysis was conducted for the group that received JASPER. Teachers’ perceptions were not related to changes in strategy scores after receiving JASPER training (β = -.029, p = .44, ∆R2 = .034).
Conclusions: Teachers’ perception of students’ ability to control ASD behavior is associated with strategies used during play interactions. Prior to training, teachers tended to use strategies promoting joint engagement for students who were perceived to be better able to control their ASD behavior. However, these perceptions did not interfere with teachers’ ability to learn and implement intervention strategies. Teachers made significant improvements in using intervention strategies across students (Chang et al., 2016), and these improvements were not related to their initial perceptions of students’ ability to control ASD behavior.