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IES Grant

Title: Transition Outcomes of High-Functioning Students with Autism: How and When Students Learn the Skills Necessary for Self-Management of Daily Responsibilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2016
Principal Investigator: Orsmond, Gael Awardee: Boston University
Program: Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years (7/1/20166/30/2020) Award Amount: $1,578,509
Type: Exploration Award Number: R324A160113
Description:

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to (1) understand the programs and strategies that parents and special educators use to teach students with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD) how to manage daily life tasks and (2) examine how the ability to self-manage daily life tasks is associated with successful transition outcomes for students with HFASD. Research has shown that although students with HFASD have similar levels of academic achievement as their peers, they also exhibit significant impairments in their ability to manage daily life tasks, which are a strong predictor of poor adult outcomes. There is a need to better understand the factors that account for the poor transition outcomes of students with HFASD. This study aims to inform the development and refinement of interventions and supports that will facilitate the ability of students with HFASD to self-manage daily life tasks and thus prepare for life after high school.

Project Activities: The research team will explore malleable factors related to improved transition outcomes for students with HFASD. In Phase 1, the research team will conduct focus groups with high school special education personnel knowledgeable about direct services provided to high school students with HFASD. The research team will also distribute web-based surveys to a larger group of high school special education personnel informed by the focus group results to more broadly identify existing services. In Phase 2, the research team will collect data from students with HFASD and their parents regarding students' self-management of daily life tasks—as well as additional data that will be used to identify malleable factors, moderators, and mediators of transition outcomes—during their final year of high school. Transition outcome data (i.e., independent living, post-secondary education, employment, and vocational training) will be collected at the time of the post-test and 18 months later as a follow-up to assess how students have transitioned out of high school.

Products: The primary product of this study is an understanding of how self-management of daily life relates to transition outcomes for students with HFASD. The team will also disseminate findings through peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: This study will take place in high schools in urban, suburban, and rural communities in Massachusetts.

Sample: Study participants include approximately 150 students in their final year of high school and those students' parents. Participating students will have received special education services under the autism disability category, but are expected to graduate high school with a diploma and with same-aged peers. In addition, 20 high school special education personnel will participate in focus groups and 100 will participate in an online survey in Phase 1.

Intervention: Due to the nature of this research, there is no intervention.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct a two-phase, mixed methods study to explore malleable factors related to improved transition outcomes. In Phase 1, the researchers will conduct four to five focus groups with 20 high school special education personnel (e.g., special educators, team leaders) about the services and supports provided to high school students with HFASD. Data collected from the focus groups will be used to inform the development of a web-based survey to be administered to 100 high school special educators, to obtain data with a larger sample to assess more broadly the programming schools provide to prepare youth to self-manage daily tasks. In Phase 2, the research team will conduct a longitudinal study, which will involve collecting baseline data from 150 high school students with HFASD and their parents, focused on student characteristics and skills as well as transition supports and outcomes. Follow-up data on students' post-school outcomes will be collected 18 months later. Finally, records will be collected from the school and parents (Individualized Education Program and Transition Plans) to assess student goals and the accuracy of the data received on services and supports.

Control Condition: Due to the nature of this study, there is no control condition.

Key Measures: Data from the focus groups with educators will be used to inform the web-based survey for educators, and both the focus group and survey will gather data regarding how schools support the development of self-management of daily life tasks for students with HFASD. Parents will complete a web-based survey of the students' functional living and self-management skills using the PEDI-CAT-ASD (a computer-adaptive test that adjusts questions asked based on prior responses). In addition, both parents and students will complete pre-and post-high school surveys by mail which includes measures to report student characteristics (autism symptoms, maladaptive behaviors, behavioral and emotional health, and executive function skills). These measures include the Communication Checklist—Adult (communicative skills), Scales of Independent Behavior—Revised (behavior problems), Adult Behavior Checklist and Adult Self-Report (emotional and behavioral problems), and Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function—Adult (executive function). Family demographic questions will be included as well to obtain information to describe the sample, such as parent and child ethnicity, gender, family membership (ages and gender of siblings), family income, parental education and employment, and type and size of community. Both parents and students will report transition services and supports received as well as expectations and goals for post-graduation (i.e., independent living, post-secondary education, employment, and vocational training). Post-graduation outcomes will be obtained through parent and student post-high school surveys as well as in the follow-up surveys conducted 18 months later to gain additional outcome data. The Social Communication Questionnaire will be used as a screening measure for HFASD. The research team will also obtain and code students' Individualized Education Program and Transition Plan documents.

Data Analytic Strategy: Qualitative methods will be used to analyze focus group data and responses to open-ended survey questions. Quantitative data analyses include descriptive analyses of survey responses and logistic and ordinary least squares multiple regression analyses to examine the association between self-management of daily life tasks, family and student characteristics, and transition outcomes.


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