Proactive Planning for Evidence-Based Practices in Schools:

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
B. Ventenilla1, M. Melgarejo2 and J. Suhrheinrich3, (1)Special Education, San Diego State Universtiy, San Diego, CA, (2)Education, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, (3)San Diego State University, San Diego, CA

Schools are the primary service sector in which individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) receive care. Although the use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) is mandated in schools (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEA] 2004; No Child Left Behind 2001), and school districts are required to provide resources and funding to support the implementation of EBPs; that is not always the case in practice. Districts sometimes fail to provide resources to comply with IDEA standards (Yell, Katsiyannis, Drasgow, & Herbst, 2003), suggesting that sometimes they adopt a reactive strategy (correctly implement EBPs only after an IDEA violation), rather than using IDEA as a framework for effective EBP implementation. Understanding factors related to proactive planning for EBP implementation may support more effective implementation.


To evaluate the factors related to school district use of proactive strategies to support EBP implementation.


Thirty members from the California Autism Professional Training and Information Network (CAPTAIN), representing multiple school districts from across the state, participated in a total of six focus groups. Participants were asked to select a program for students with ASD that their district was currently implementing or had recently implemented, and to describe the implementation process.

Audio recordings of the focus group sessions were transcribed and independently coded by research associates, and inter-rater reliability was assessed by comparing coding and discussing discrepancies to arrive at agreement. N*Vivo qualitative software was used to identify themes across participants.


Participants reported that some districts provide resources to select and implement interventions based on student needs, whereas others do so reactively (e.g., after due process and litigation, or when an escalated situation occurs)(See Table 1). Proactive strategies that emerged include (1) as the number of students with ASD increases, districts provide training and resources to support EBP implementation for students with ASD (2) participants working with the district or SELPA receive a grant to fund programs, (3) districts working with CAPTAIN, an agency that supports the understanding and use of EBPs for individuals affected by ASD, (4) districts identifying student needs in general. Reactive strategies that emerged include (1) interventions being selected because of due process or litigation, (2) students being placed in non-public schools, as districts pay for non-public school tuition if they cannot offer a Free and Appropriate Public Education, (3) participants provide support for a teacher in an escalated situation involving a student with ASD, due to the lack of teacher training. Participants also shared their thoughts on why proactive strategies are not consistently implemented in their districts, and reported that while implementation of proactive strategies would require more effort and money initially, it is cost-effective in the long run.


This may give insight on how to allocate resources to proactively address student needs by appropriately selecting and implementing EBPs and prevent reactively addressing student needs after problematic situations occur. Future research should evaluate the differences between schools or districts that act proactively or reactively when providing for student needs.

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