Interventions for Transition-Age Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Meta-Analysis

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
S. M. Crowley1, S. Y. Kim2 and K. Bottema-Beutel2, (1)Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, (2)Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], 2004) is a legislative mandate that was passed to enhance the educational opportunities available for students with disabilities. This law outlines the necessary steps to prepare students for a transitional period from high school to adulthood. Special educators are required to develop appropriate goals with each student that will assist them throughout this transitional period. Despite these advances, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) consistently lag behind their peers in terms of educational achievement. When compared to typically developing peers, these students have lower rates of competitive employment, post-secondary school attendance, independent living, and opportunities for success within the community (Taylor & Seltzer, 2011). Synthesizing the available research that targets transition-age students with ASD will aid in determining whether these interventions have a positive impact on students with ASD, and the particular domains in which these interventions show evidence of effectiveness.

Objectives: In this meta-analysis we examined high school intervention studies, considered broadly, for individuals diagnosed with ASD, Intellectual Disability, or Severe/Multiple Disabilities. Our primary aim was to determine the summary effect of high school interventions, and the effect size estimates across all intervention types. For the purpose of this presentation, we will focus solely on the reports that included individuals with ASD.

Methods: Electronic databases were the primary method to search for published journal articles and dissertations/theses. Attempts to locate “grey literature” were also employed through hand searching past conference proceedings and peer-reviewed journals. Researchers who previously presented on topics related to transition-age youth, were emailed with a request to provide unpublished data relevant to the current analysis. A graduate student screened each article based on inclusion criteria. If studies did not meet the criteria, they were eliminated from the meta-analysis; however, articles that appeared to meet this inclusion criteria, went on for a complete review of the text.

Results: Our search yielded a total of 18 reports and 208 effect sizes (see Figure 1 for a detailed description of the elimination process). Of the 18 studies included in the overall analysis, 8 included adolescent or young adult participants with ASD (n = 78). The forest plot in Figure 2 reveals a significant summary effect size for studies that introduced interventions for high school students with ASD. Because there were fewer than five studies in each intervention category, the findings could not be parsed out based on the type of intervention that was administered.

Conclusions: The small number of studies included in this meta-analysis further highlights the lack of knowledge there is regarding the benefits of interventions for individuals with ASD as they prepare for adulthood. Future research should continue to use rigorous methodologies to investigate transition interventions, and their impact on social-ecological factors that are considered important to autistic adults (Anderson, Roux, Kuo, & Shattuck, 2018).