Identifying and Targeting Priority Skills in Transition Programming for Students on the Autism Spectrum through Multi-Informant Assessment

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
K. Hume, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Background: Post-high school outcomes are particularly bleak for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One malleable contributor to post-school outcomes is the quality of the transition plans developed as part of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The Secondary School Success Checklist (SSSC) is a new measure developed to allow students across the spectrum to describe their current skill level in transition-related domains as well as rank their priorities for goal setting, thus actively contributing to the transition planning process.

Objectives: This study examines (a) the transition-related skill level of adolescents with ASD as reported by each respondent group, (b) the perceived importance of each skill across respondent group, and (c) the relationships between the rankings of each respondent group. This will provide unique insight into the experiences and self-identified priorities of high school students with ASD, provide guidance for staff and families during the transition planning process, as well as inform intervention development/ implementation to ensure priorities are addressed.

Methods: Data were drawn from a larger ongoing RCT of high school students with ASD. The sample includes 547 adolescents and their parents (mean age= 16.4; mean nonverbal IQ=85.8; mean Vineland=75.8) from 3 states. The student version of the SSSC has 20 items, each which is linked to key items on the teacher and parent versions (105 items). Both sets of items were representative of four key domains: independent behavior, transition, social, and academic.Mean levels of skill performance and importance are reported across domain and informant, and differences between groups and domains were examined. Next, the inter-rater reliability across respondents for skill level and priority scores were conducted, and finally we ran paired sample t-tests to determine which domains were rated as most important by informant group.

Results: The study findings indicate that adolescents rated themselves as higher skilled on SSSC items than did parents or teachers. There were significant differences across the informant groups, with differences on up to 18 of 20 items (adolescent- parent), with low agreement across raters (weighted Cohens kappa= adolescents had very low agreement with both parents,.10 and teachers .11; parents and teachers had slightly higher agreement .20. Although the ratings varied, there was some agreement in the ranking of the highest and lowest rated skills across all three groups. Adolescents consistently had lower percentages on items marked as a priority across skills and informant group; however, even the lowest percentage on the priority ratings from adolescents was close to 70%. Again, though variable, there was agreement across all three groups on the rankings of several of the highest and lowest priority skills.

Conclusions: This is the first study to examine the perceived skill level and importance of transition-related skills among adolescents with ASD, their parents, and teachers. This is the largest current sample of adolescents with ASD (i.e. most recent NLTS2 sample was followed until 2009) and this data provides an important snapshot into student performance of key transition-related skills, providing a profile of both student strengths and needs as reported by multiple informants.