Randomized Control Trial of Compass for Improving Transition Outcomes of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 11, 2018: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall Grote Zaal (de Doelen ICC Rotterdam)
L. A. Ruble1, J. H. McGrew2, C. Snell-Rood3 and M. Toland1, (1)University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, (2)Psychology, Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN, (3)Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

Despite federal law that requires public schools to provide a coordinated set of results-oriented activities that lead to successful post-secondary outcomes, research indicates that current processes to ensure a seamless movement from school to post-school activities are insufficient. The postsecondary outcomes of individuals with ASD are significantly worse than peers with other disabilities, including intellectual disability. One problem is the lack of empirically-supported transition planning interventions to guide services and help produce better outcomes.


To determine if COMPASS for transition planning and implementation improves IEP goal attainment outcomes for students with ASD.

To assess consultant fidelity in delivering the modified version of COMPASS and teacher adherence in providing evidence-based instruction in COMPASS.


Public school special education teachers and a randomly selected student with ASD (research verified) from their caseloads were recruited. Students’ mean age was 18.2 years (SD = 1.1). Ninety percent of the students were male, 70% White, 15% Black, 5% Asian, and 10% multi-racial.

A total of 150 teacher-child pairs were assessed for eligibility (Figure 1); 20 teachers and 20 students and their parents participated. Following a baseline assessment, teacher-child dyads were randomized into groups, 11 in the experimental condition and 9 in the placebo condition.

Four measures (cognition, adaptive behavior, social/emotional functioning; autism severity) were administered at Time 1 to verify group equivalency (Table 1).

Three reliable adherence measures were utilized: (a) consultant fidelity to the initial COMPASS consultation and (b) to the teacher coaching sessions; and (c) teacher adherence to the implementation of the teaching plans.

Idiographic assessment using psychometrically equivalence tested goal attainment scaling (PET-GAS) was used to evaluate IEP progress because each student had different goals, different baseline skill levels associated with the goals, and different teaching plans. Interrater agreement (two-way Random) as measured using the sample ICC for single measures was .94 at baseline and .86 at final evaluation. The final evaluator was unaware of group assignment.

The intervention consisted of a 3-hr parent-teacher consultation and four 1-1.5 hr teacher coaching sessions.

All consultations were conducted at the school. Prior to consultation, students (4 out of 11), parents, and teachers completed a COMPASS assessment questionnaire, which was summarized into a joint form used for discussion of post-secondary goals and about the student’s personal and environmental challenges and supports associated with social, communication, and independent/adaptive skills at school and home.


Results replicated findings with younger students with ASD that IEP outcomes were higher for COMPASS compared to the placebo control group (d = 2.1; Table 2). Also, consultant fidelity to the consultation and coaching protocols was high (92%) and teacher adherence improved over time, replicating the importance of ongoing teacher coaching.


In their critical review of the key elements of the transition process for students with ASD, Wehman and colleagues (2014) were unable to identify any studies that tested a transition planning intervention using experimental methods. Thus, to our knowledge, this is the first experimental trial of a transition planning and monitoring intervention for students with ASD.