The dual increases in the prevalence of students with autism needing special education services and the number of paraeducators providing instruction in special education had created a need for preparing paraeducators to use evidence-based practices (EBPs) with autistic students in educational settings. The AFIRM for Paraeducators (AFP) program is a professional development program for paraeducators to be delivered by special education teachers in authentic educational settings. The purpose of this project is to examine the promise of the AFP program, through a pilot randomized control trial (RCT), for increasing paraeducators use of EBP with high fidelity of implementation and resultant goal attainment by autistic students receiving instruction.
The project will be located in 24 elementary schools in North Carolina, and participants will be one special education teacher, one paraeducator, and three students with autism in each school. Employing a RCT, schools will be randomly assigned to receive the AFP program or to a services as usual (SAU) control condition. The study will occur across an academic year. Teacher, paraeducator, and student assessments will occur at the beginning and end of the school year, with assessments of paraeducators’ EBP use and fidelity occurring during the school year.
This study will take place in 24 schools in central North Carolina. An equal number of special education and inclusive classes will be selected. The schools will be located in urban, suburban, and rural areas characterized by racial, ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity.
Participants will be special education teachers and their paraeducators who provide instructional services to elementary-aged students with autism in public school settings. The student participants will have autism as an eligibility classification for special education service, with confirmatory assessment by project staff. The student sample will be racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse.
Results of this study will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and procedural descriptions will be published in practitioner journals. In addition, a procedural manual that interfaces with workshop and EBP online e-learning modules will be posted on the project website and available to practitioners.