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Special Education Research and Development Centers





Principal Investigator:

Odom, Samuel


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Special Education Research and Development Centers [Program Details]

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Award Amount:



R&D Center

Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA)

Purpose: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 88 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a pervasive disorder affecting multiple developmental outcomes (e.g., behavior, communication, cognitive skills). The heterogeneity of abilities poses a significant challenge for schools in determining how best to meet the needs of each child within the least restrictive environment. The research to date suggests that despite some mitigation in the severity of some symptoms associated with ASD as children grow older, significant limitations persist that can affect a range of outcomes. The focus of this Center is a program of research to develop and evaluate a comprehensive, school-based intervention for secondary students with ASD. The purpose of the intervention is to improve cognitive, communicative, academic, social, behavioral, functional, or transition outcomes of secondary students with ASD.

Projects: The Center's primary research will involve (1) developing a comprehensive school- and community-based treatment model for high school students with ASD, and (2) evaluating the efficacy of the intervention.

Focused Program of Research:

Intervention Development and Pilot Studies
The research team will develop an intervention (Years 1 and 2) with five components: (1) evidence-based practice implementation and quality improvement (the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders [NPDC] Model, which is the core component of the intervention); (2) academic performance; (3) social competence and peer relations; (4) adaptive behavior; and (5) transition and family. The iterative development process will begin with conducting focus groups with relevant stakeholders (e.g., special and general education teachers, administrators, related service providers, school counselors, family members, individuals with ASD, and typically developing high school students), which will provide feedback for the work groups developing the components. Following this process, the four content components academics, social competence, adaptive behavior, and transition and families will be piloted in high schools as single components. These pilot studies will obtain data on feasibility and fidelity of implementation, which will be used to revise and manualize the intervention components. In the second year of the project, each of the six research sites will pilot test a combination of three model components. Each combination will include the core NPDC model plus two content components, and every combination of three components will be tested.

Efficacy Study
The Center will recruit a large sample of high schools across three states (North Carolina, Wisconsin, and California) to participate in the efficacy study (Years 3–5), leading to a total of at least 60 schools that meet the inclusion criteria, with at least 12 students with ASD participating at each high school. A multiple cohort design will be used with each cohort participating for 2 years. Using a randomized cluster design, schools within each state will be paired and randomly assigned to treatment or control (business as usual). At each treatment site, all components of the intervention will be implemented in graduated steps over 2 years. This study will examine the cumulative efficacy as the intervention is implemented as well as the overall efficacy of the complete intervention on a variety of child outcomes relevant to the different component topics. The study will also examine potential child- and school-level moderators and changes in program quality as a mediator. For the first cohort, there will be follow-up to explore whether treatment effects are maintained after the intervention officially ends and to explore transition outcomes for those students who have transitioned out of high school.

Key Personnel: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Samuel Odom, Kara Hume, Ann Cox, Brian Boyd, Jill Hamm, Michelle Duda, Suzanne Kucharczyk; University of Wisconsin: Leann Smith, Linda Tuchman-Ginsberg, Marsha Mailick Seltzer; University of California at Davis: Sally Rogers, Aaron Stabel; University of North Carolina at Charlotte: David Test, Diane Browder-Boswell; Vanderbilt University: Erik Carter; University of Texas at Austin: Sharon Vaughn, Colleen Reutebuch

Center Website:

IES Program Contact:
Kimberley Sprague
Telephone: (202) 245-8464

Publications from this project:

Smith, L. E., & Anderson, K. A. (2013). The roles and needs of families of adolescents with ASD. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 115–122.

Carter, E., Common, E., Srekovic, M., Huber, H., Bottema-Beutel, K., Redding Gustafson, J., Dykstra, J., & Hume, K. (2014). Promoting social competence and peer relationships for adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 91–101.

Fleury, V., Hedges, S., Hume, K., Browder, D., Thompson, J., Fallin, K., El Zein, F., Reutebuch, C., & Vaughn, S. (2014). Addressing the academic needs of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder in secondary education. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 68–79.

Gardner, K. F., Carter, E. W., Gustafson, J. R., Hochman, J. M., Harvey, M. N., Mullins, T. S., & Fan, H. (2014). Effects of peer networks on the social interactions of high School students with autism spectrum disorders. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 39 (2), 100–118.

Hedges, S. H., Kirby, A. V., Sreckovic, M. A., Kucharczyk, S., Hume, K., & Pace, S. (2014). "Falling through the cracks": Challenges for high school students with autism spectrum disorder. The High School Journal, 98 (1), 64–82.

Hume, K. (2014). Introduction to the special issue. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 67.

Hume, K., Boyd, B., Hamm, J., & Kucharczyk, S. (2014). Supporting independence in adolescents on the autism spectrum. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 38–49.

Odom, S. L., Duda, M. A., Kucharczyk, S., Cox, A. W., & Stabel, A. (2014). Applying an implementation science framework for adoption of a comprehensive program for high school students with autism spectrum disorder. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 123–132.

Odom, S. L., Thompson, J. L., Hedges, S., Boyd, B. A., Dykstra, J. R., Duda, M. A, … & Bord, A. (2014). Technology-aided interventions and instruction for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10803–014–2320–6

Test, D. W., Smith, L. E., & Carter, E. W. (2014). Equipping youth with autism spectrum disorders for adulthood: Promoting rigor, relevance, and relationships. Remedial and Special Education, 35, 80–90.

Bottema-Beutel, K., Mullins, T. S., Harvey, M. N., Gustafson, J. R., & Carter, E. W. (2015). Avoiding the "brick wall of awkward": Perspectives of youth with autism spectrum disorder on social-focused intervention practices. Autism. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1362361315574888

Hochman, J. M., Carter, E. W., Bottema-Beutel, K., Harvey, M. N., & Gustafson, J. R. (2015). Efficacy of peer networks to increase social connections among high school students with and without autism spectrum disorder. Exceptional Children. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/0014402915585482

Kucharczyk, S., Reutebuch, C. K., Carter, E. W., Hedges, S., El Zein, F., Fan, H., & Gustafson, J. R. (2015). Addressing the needs of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder considerations and complexities for high school interventions. Exceptional Children, 81 (3), 329–349.

Reutebuch, C., El Zein, F., Kim, Weinberg, & Vaughn, S. (2015). Investigating a comprehension intervention for high school students with autism spectrum disorder: A pilot study. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 9, 96–11.

Szidon, K., Ruppar, A., & Smith, L. (2015). Transition planning and IEPs for students with autism spectrum disorder. Teaching Exceptional Children, 47, 147–152.

Hume, K., Regan, T., Megronigle, L., & Rhinehalt, C. (in press). Supporting students with autism though grief and loss. Teaching Exceptional Children.

Reutebuch, C., El Zein, F., & Roberts, G. (in press). A systematic review of the effects of choice on academic outcomes for students with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2015.08.002