Preparing Teachers and Paraprofessionals for the Successful Inclusion of Children With ASD
Purpose: The purpose of this exploration study is to identify and examine the malleable individual and organizational characteristics that increase teachers' and paraprofessionals' use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) to more meaningfully include and retain children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in general education settings. Specifically, this study will: 1) explore which EBPs general and special education teachers and paraprofessionals have been trained to use and actually use to support included children with ASD in general education settings; 2) identify and examine the association of individual and organizational characteristics that predict the intention to use and actual use of EBPs that relate to child outcomes; and 3) qualitatively examine the underlying mechanisms through which individual and organizational factors facilitate or hinder EBP use. The findings from this research will be used to develop and test a multi-level intervention that tailors strategies to address the malleable factors identified in this study to improve teacher and paraprofessional use of EBPs that promote inclusion and ultimately improve child outcomes.
Project Activities: Across the four years of the project, researchers will conduct a series of activities to identify and examine the malleable individual and organizational factors that increase EBP use to support inclusion of children with ASD. They will gather quantitative and qualitative data to explore which EBPs general and special education teachers and paraprofessionals have been trained to use and consistently use to support included children with ASD (Aim 1). Next, they will quantitatively measure individual characteristics (attitudes about EBPs, perception of normative pressure to use EBPs, self-efficacy to use EBPs, and intentions to use EBPs) of general and special education teachers and paraprofessionals as well as organizational factors (implementation leadership and implementation climate) of the school and explore how these factors are associated with implementation and child outcomes (Aim 2). Finally, they will qualitatively examine the mechanisms through which individual and organizational factors facilitate or hinder EBP use in a subset of participants (Aim 3).
Products: The products include an improved theoretical model of the malleable factors that influence EBP use. The resulting raw and summarized data will be shared with qualified investigators for non-commercial research through the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR). The project will also result in peer-reviewed publications and presentations as well as additional dissemination products that reach education stakeholders such as practitioners and policymakers.
Setting: The project will be conducted in elementary schools in WA State.
Sample: The participants will include 200 general education teachers, 100 special education teachers, 150 paraprofessionals, and 180 elementary-aged children with ASD who are partially (15 minutes or more) or fully included in a general education classroom.
Malleable Factors: The factors that will be studied include individual (e.g., attitudes, norms, self-efficacy, and intentions to use EBPs) and organizational (implementation climate and leadership) factors that play a role in the implementation of evidence-based practices with students with ASD.
Research Design and Methods: The researchers will conduct an observational, mixed methods design. Large-scale primary data collection with general and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and children with ASD will be supplemented with teacher and paraprofessional interviews to estimate relationships between individual and organizational characteristics, general and special education teachers' and paraprofessionals' use of EBPs, and student outcomes.
Control Condition: There is no control condition.
Key Measures: The Autism Treatment Survey and an interviewwill be used to measure the types of EBPs that teachers and paraprofessionals use in inclusive settings. Individual characteristics will be measured using the Evidence-Based Practice Attitude Scale and surveys of attitudes, perceived norms, self-efficacy, and intentions to use EBPs based on the Theory of Planned Behavior. Organizational characteristics will be measured using the Implementation Climate Scale and Implementation Leadership Scale. Penetration and observer rated fidelity will be measured as an indication of teachers' and paraprofessionals' use of EBPs. Child outcomes measures include: 1) Classroom Observation (observer rating of task engagement and disruptive behavior); and 2) Social Responsiveness Scale-Second Edition (teacher and paraprofessional rated). In addition, general and special education teachers and paraprofessionals will be interviewed to examine mechanisms through which individual and organizational characteristics facilitate or hinder EBP use.
Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will use descriptive analyses and multilevel modeling to describe EBP use, assess predictors of EBP use, and examine moderation of organizational characteristics on EBP use. An iterative approach to qualitative analysis will be used to interpret data to understand teachers' and paraprofessionals' use of EBPs and potential mechanisms through which individual and organizational characteristics facilitate or hinder EBP use.