The purpose of this project is to document the efficacy of a widely used professional development model that promotes program quality, teachers' use of evidence-based practices (EBPs), and outcomes for elementary school-age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The study will respond to a national need to prepare teachers to design effective, research based educational programs for children with ASD. The study will take place in 60 elementary schools in North Carolina distributed across urban, suburban, and rural areas. School staff (e.g., teachers, related service providers, administrators) will participate in the professional development process. A minimum of 10 students with ASD in each school will also participate. Students will be enrolled in inclusive and non-inclusive program options. Approximately 50% of the participants will come from minority families (i.e., primarily Black/African American, Latino).
The professional development model serving as the “treatment” variable in this study was developed by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, has been used with agencies in 12 states, and is currently being used to train hundreds of teachers in the U.S. and other countries. The model consists of forming a team at the building level, taking an online course, participating in an intensive summer workshop, assessing program quality, using program quality information for program improvement, developing measurable student goals, linking goals to EBPs, and implementing EBPs to achieve student goals. A significant feature of this model will be the coaching and feedback provided by research staff and local district personnel.