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Facts From NLTS2: Secondary School Experiences of Students With Autism
NCSER 2007-3005
April 2007

Accommodations, Services, and Supports Provided to Students With Autism

Some youth, particularly those with disabilities, need supports and interventions beyond the traditional classroom experiences to be successful at school (Tindal and Fuchs 2000). Secondary-school-age students with autism began receiving services as young children; parents report that, on average, youth were 4 years old when they first received disability-related services from a professional (Wagner, Newman et al. 2003). By the time they are in secondary school, according to teachers, 97 percent of students with autism receive some type of accommodation or modification, learning support, technology aid, or related service to enhance their performance in school.

More than 9 out of 10 secondary students with autism (91 percent) receive accommodations and modifications. Additional time to complete assignments (52 percent) or tests (52 percent) are among the more frequent types of accommodations (table 1). Tests and assignments also are modified; 49 percent of secondary students with autism receive alternative tests, 33 percent are given modified tests, 25 percent have tests read to them, and 38 percent are given shorter or different assignments than the rest of the class. Approximately 2 out of 5 (41 percent) receive slower-paced instruction. Almost one-third (30 percent) have teachers who modify grading criteria. Physical aspects of the classroom are modified for 16 percent of students with autism.

Table 1. Accommodations and modifications provided to students with autism

More than 80 percent of students with autism also receive other types of supports or assistance to enhance their participation and performance (table 2). Instructional support is often provided through monitoring of students' progress by special education teachers; 57 percent of students with autism receive this support. More than half (55 percent) of students with autism receive help from teacher aides, instructional one-third (32 percent) receive more frequent feedback from teachers, and 22 percent receive help with learning strategies or study skills. Less than 15 percent receive assistance from peer tutors, tutoring help from an adult, support from readers or interpreters, or self-advocacy training.

Table 2. Learning support provided to students with autism

Technology aids are provided to 57 percent of students with autism. More than one-quarter (28 percent) use a calculator in the classroom when other students are not permitted to use one, and 16 percent use a computer for activities in which one is not allowed for other students (table 3). Approximately one out of four (23 percent) use computer software specifically designed for students with disabilities, and 16 percent use communication aids. Books on tape and specialized computer hardware each are used by 8 percent of students with autism.

Table 3. Technology aids provided to students with autism

In addition to the accommodations and supports they receive in their classes, more than 70 percent of secondary students with autism receive a variety of related services deemed necessary for the students to benefit from their special education programs (table 4). The types of services youth with autism receive address a wide range of needs and functional issues. Speech-language pathology services is the most frequently received type of service,14 with two-thirds receiving this assistance. More than half receive special transportation because of their disability or participate in adaptive physical education (54 percent and 51 percent, respectively). The services of a behavior interventionist are provided to 35 percent of students with autism. Communication services, psychological or mental health counseling or services, and social work services each are provided to 22 percent of secondary students with autism. Assistive technology services or devices are used by 30 percent of students with autism. In addition, 24 percent receive occupational therapy, 14 percent receive health services, and 6 percent receive physical therapy.

The related services and supports provided to students with autism are meant to be coordinated and integrated into a student's overall educational program. To facilitate this coordination and integration of services, a case manager is assigned to some students by their schools. A case manager "-coordinates and oversees services on behalf of the student. In some schools, this person might be the child's special education teacher. In other schools, supervisory school district personnel may assume this responsibility" (Mattson 2001, p. 14). Almost half (45 percent) of secondary students with autism have a case manager provided from or through their school.

Table 4. Related services provided to students with autism from or through their school


14 The following significance levels are listed for comparisons of speech-language pathology services, with the next four most frequently received types of services: p < .05, p < .001, p < .001, p < .001, although all comparisons are significant