Educating Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Mainstream Classes: Teacher Knowledge and Use of Empirically Supported Treatments.

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 10, 2018: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
R. P. Sulek1, D. Trembath2, J. M. Paynter3 and D. Keen4, (1)Griffith University, Australia, Gold Coast, Australia, (2)Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Australia, (3)School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Southport, Australia, (4)Autism Centre of Excellence, Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Australia
Background: Providing equal educational opportunities for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) goes beyond providing a place in mainstream classrooms. Children with ASD might experience delays in their development of critical skills that otherwise prepare children for school (e.g., ability to work independently, follow teacher directions). It is therefore crucial that teachers are both aware of these differences, and well equipped to support the development of these skills in the early years of school. Although several empirically supported treatments (ESTs) exist which can target these skills in children with ASD, there has been minimal investigation into the extent to which teachers are aware of, and use ESTs in mainstream settings. Additionally, factors such as the social validity of ESTs and sources of information teachers are accessing must be considered.

Objectives: The aim of our study was to investigate knowledge and use of these ESTs in Australian teachers of the foundation year (commonly referred to as kindergarten or ‘prep’). Additionally, we examined factors that contribute to the uptake of treatments in mainstream settings.

Methods: We used a mixed methods approach, with the research conducted over two phases. Participants in both phases were Australian foundation year teachers working with at least one child with ASD. In phase one, 155 participants completed an online survey which included measures of knowledge, use, and social validity of 20 ESTs and two non-ESTs outlined in Fleury, Thompson, and Wong (2015). Additionally, demographic information and sources of information commonly accessed by participants were collected. In phase two, 13 teachers were interviewed to gain a richer understanding of the factors that contribute to the uptake of ESTs in the classroom.

Results: Participants reported using all 20 treatments at least sometimes, with ESTs used more frequently than non-ESTs. Participant knowledge and perceived social validity of interventions was also significantly positively associated with use (p’s < .001). Participants interviewed identified several factors that influenced their decisions to use treatments, including the needs of the child, their knowledge and previous experience working with a child with ASD, their access to other professionals, and training received. Reliance on research evidence (i.e., accessing available literature) was found to be infrequently accessed across both phases of the study, with participants more commonly accessing within-school supports.

Conclusions: The strong association between social validity of ESTs and their use highlights the importance of developing, evaluating, and recommending to teachers treatments that are appropriate for use in mainstream settings, in order to close the research to practice gap that exists in autism and education. Taken together with the teacher-identified factors that influence decision making, the findings provide tangible avenues for further clinical-research efforts in collaboration with teachers to improve transition outcomes for children with ASD.