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IES Grant

Title: Using Peer Models in the Context of Small-Group Direct Instruction to Teach Social and Academic Skills to Children with Autism
Center: NCSER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Ledford, Jennifer Awardee: Vanderbilt University
Program: Early Career Development and Mentoring      [Program Details]
Award Period: 7/1/2013 – 6/30/2017 Award Amount: $365,894
Type: Training Award Number: R324B130029

Previous Award Number: R324B130014
Previous Awardee: University of Georgia

Mentors: Wehby, Joseph; Gast, David; Ayres, Kevin

Purpose: The Principal Investigator (PI) will further develop skills conducting single-case design research on children with autism while conducting a series of studies using this population and methodology. The research goals are to modify a small group intervention with peer models and examine its impact on academic and social skills.

Research Plan: An intervention for children with autism will be modified, refined, and pilot tested using a series of single-case design studies. The intervention is a small-group direct instruction (SGDI) with systematic response prompting and typically developing peer models to teach children with autism social and academic skills. Evidence exists that this intervention is effective for preschool children, but the intervention will be modified for different populations of children and different implementers. The PI will conduct a series of single-case design studies beginning with implementation by the research team and moving to implementation by classroom teachers in order to examine implementation feasibility, modifications to the SGDI, and impacts of the intervention on teaching behavior and student academic and social outcomes. More specifically, the PI will examine whether the SGDI techniques are effective for teaching elementary as well as preschool students, with a focus on students with autism; whether these techniques can be used to teach targeted academic and social skills that can generalize to other settings; and whether teachers or other classroom personnel can implement these procedures with fidelity.

Career Plan: The PI will meet regularly with her mentors, who will guide her in content knowledge on autism spectrum disorders, methodological issues in single-case design, and other academic career skills (e.g., working in public schools, training and supervising students). In addition, she will receive training in the intensive Autism Diagnostic Observation Scale, attend conferences on autism and research methods in special education, participate in workshops at the university when available, attend summer institutes (e.g., IES Summer Institute) on single-case methodology, and develop her skills in grant writing and budgeting through classes offered at her institution.

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Ledford, J. R., Zimmerman, K. N., Chazin, K. T., Patel, N. M., Morales, V. A., & Bennett, B. P. (2017). Coaching paraprofessionals to promote engagement and social interactions during small group activities for young children with ASD and their peers. Journal of Behavioral Education. doi: 10.1007/s10864–017–9273–8

Ledford, J. R., Zimmerman, K. N., Harbin, E. R., & Ward, S. R. (2017). Improving the use of evidence-based instructional practices by paraprofessionals. Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities. doi: 10.1177/1088357617699178

Ledford, J.R., and Wehby, J.E. (2015). Teaching Children With Autism in Small Groups With Students who are At-Risk for Academic Problems: Effects on Academic and Social Behaviors. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(6): 1624–1635. doi:10.1007/s10803–014–2317–1

Ledford, J.R., Hall, E., Conder, E., and Lane, J.D. (2016). Research for Young Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Evidence of Social and Ecological Validity. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 35(4): 223–233. doi:10.1177/0271121415585956

Ledford, J.R., King, S., Harbin, E.R., and Zimmerman, K. (in press). Antecedent Social Skills Interventions for Individuals With ASD: What Works, for Whom, and Under What Conditions? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. doi:10.1177/1088357616634024