Developing a Participatory Autism Training through Collaboration with Autistic College Students and Non-Autistic High School Students

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
K. Gillespie-Lynch1, N. Tricarico2, P. Bongiovanni3, W. Pinkava2, B. Kofner4, A. Hernandez5, X. Rosario5, L. Reinoso5, A. Ainsworth5, M. Pajovic6, J. Irizarry5, A. J. Harrison7 and N. Alcantra5, (1)Department of Psychology, College of Staten Island; CUNY Graduate Center, Brooklyn, NY, (2)College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Staten Island, NY, (3)CUNY, Staten Island, NY, (4)CUNY, NY, NY, (5)Pelham Lab High School, Bronx, NY, (6)John Jay, Manhattan, NY, (7)Educational Psychology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background: Autistic people are negatively impacted by misconceptions about and stigma towards autism (Botha et al., 2018). Participation in a brief online autism training was associated with reduced stigma towards and increased knowledge about autism among college students internationally (Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2015; Obeid et al., 2015; Someki et al., 2018). Past research suggests that modifying autism stigma among adolescent boys is challenging (Staniland & Bryne, 2013); an intensive autism training was associated with improved behavioral intentions among adolescent girls (Ranson & Bryne, 2014). Autistic people may be able to use their autism expertise to improve autism trainings (Gillespie-Lynch et al., 2017).

Objectives: A participatory team composed primarily of autistic college students and non-autistic high school students developed, evaluated and iteratively revised an autism training to increase its potential to ameliorate stigma towards and misconceptions about autism.

Methods: Three autistic (and one non-autistic) college students and seven non-autistic high school students helped adapt an autism training by making concepts/assessments more accessible and adding videos wherein autistic college students shared their insights. High school students in the Bronx (18 female, 35 male) completed a pre-test (assessing demographics, stigma (social distance scale; Bogardus, 1933), and autism knowledge (adapted from prior knowledge measures; Stone, 1987, Harrison, 2017), an in-person autism training delivered by high school students, and a post-test (identical to the pre-test with space for open-ended feedback). While 43.4% of the high school students completed the post-test immediately after the training, 56.6% did the post-test a week later due to limited class time. After evaluating data from the high school students, we revised the training/assessments and administered them online to NYC college students (289 female, 142 male) who completed pre-tests (𝞪 social distance= .91; 𝞪 = autism knowledge = .79) and post-tests immediately before and after the training.

Results: Among high school students participating in an early adaptation of the training, repeated measures ANOVAs with gender and time of post-testing as between subjects variables revealed no changes in stigma associated with training (p =.89) but improvements in knowledge, F (1,48) =4.58, p=.04. Among college students participating in the revised training, improvements in both stigma, F(1, 429) = 61.42, and knowledge were observed, F(1, 429) = 139.48, ps< .001. Females reported lower stigma and higher knowledge (ps < .001) and enhanced improvement in knowledge relative to males (p = .02). Open-ended feedback was overwhelmingly positive, e.g., “I honestly enjoyed this very much, the videos were excellent. I wanted to add that this really opened my eyes to what I would actually like to do with my life:)”

Conclusions: Participation in an initial participatory training adaptation was associated with improved knowledge but not improved stigma among primarily male high school students. Participation in a longer revised training (with more videos and opportunities for interactive engagement) led to improved knowledge and stigma among primarily female college students. In future research, we will use an identical participatory training with high school and college students to evaluate associations between developmental stage, gender and responsiveness to anti-stigma training.

See more of: Education
See more of: Education