Student, Parent, and Teacher Perspectives of Self-Determination in High School Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Poster Presentation
Friday, May 3, 2019: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
B. Tomaszewski1, B. Kraemer2, L. E. Smith DaWalt3, K. Hume1, J. R. Steinbrenner1, L. J. Hall2 and S. Odom1, (1)Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, (2)Special Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, (3)University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center, Madison, WI
Background: Self-determination refers to an individual being a causal agent in their daily activities including the ability to express their own needs, interests, and wants to make choices and set goals. Self-determination is critical during adolescence and has been linked to positive educational outcomes in individuals with disabilities. Few studies have characterized the measurement of self-determination in adolescents with ASD.

Objectives: The purpose of the current study was to (1) examine the reliability and factor structure of the American Institutes for Research Self-Determination Scale (AIR-SDS; Wolman et al., 1994) student, parent, and teacher forms for high school students with ASD, and (2) examine student and family predictors of self-determination.

Methods: Participants were part of a larger RCT of a comprehensive treatment model for high school students with ASD. The current study utilizes data collected prior to the intervention. Participants included adolescents with ASD (N = 488, Mean Chronological Age = 16.1 years SD = 1.4 years), their parents, and teachers. Students, parents, and teachers completed the AIR-SDS. The AIR-SDS measures two broad self-determination components; a student’s capacity, or their knowledge, abilities, and perceptions that enable them to be self-determined, and opportunities to use their knowledge and abilities at home and in the classroom. Parents completed the Family Empowerment Scale and the Zarit Burden Interview. Teachers completed the Social Responsiveness Scale as a measure of autism symptoms and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales as a measure of adaptive behavior.

Results: The student-reported self-determination overall mean had small associations with parent-report (r= .11, p = .04) and teacher-report (r = .11, p = .04). Teacher and parent-reports were moderately correlated (r = .27, p < .001). Item analysis and confirmatory factor analysis were conducted for each version of the AIR-SDS. The internal consistency of the AIR-SDS was high across students (Cronbachs α = .92), parents (Cronbachs α = .91), and teachers (Cronbachs α = .96). The standardized factor loadings supported the hypothesized factor structure in addition to model fit statistics for the student report, RMSEA = .06 (90% CI [.03 , .10]), CFI = .98, TLI = .96, parent report, RMSEA = .07 (90%CI [.04 , .09]), CFI =. 97, TLI = .95, and teacher report, RMSEA = .06 (90% CI [.04. 09]), CFI = .99, TLI = .97. Greater adaptive behavior skills were significantly associated with increased student, parent, and teacher-reported capacity and opportunity. Decreased autism symptoms was a significant predictor of increased teacher-reported capacity. Increased family empowerment was associated with increased parent-reported capacity and opportunity. Decreased family burden was associated with increased parent-reported capacity and parent and teacher-reported opportunity.

Conclusions: The current study provides support for use of the AIR-SDS with high school students with ASD along with their parents, and teachers. Adaptive behavior was a significant predictor of self-determination across reporters highlighting the significance of adaptive behavior skills during high school. In addition to promoting adaptive behavior, supporting family empowerment and reducing family burden may help to increase self-determination in high school students with ASD.