Category: Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders
With current rates of 1 in every 68 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), this rise in diagnoses has led to an increasing number of children with ASD in both general education and special education classrooms (Baio, 2014, Hart & Whalon, 2012). However, teachers’ training in and knowledge of ASD-specific interventions and strategies, as well as their exposure to children with ASD, vary widely (Hendricks, 2011). Whereas schools are expected to foster an inclusive environment for students with ASD, many teachers do not feel confident or prepared in their abilities to teach these children (Cramer, 2015). In addition, administrators in rural and/or low-income schools often struggle to fill special education teacher vacancies, resulting in difficulties meeting the needs of these students (Dadisman et al., 2010). The current study examined the interrelations of teachers’ perceived preparedness to teach children with ASD, their access to resources, and the level of poverty in their school community. Specifically, it was predicted that both access to resources and poverty level would relate to teachers’ perceived preparedness. Participants included 293 certified Prek-12 schoolteachers, from 39 different counties in a southeastern state. 74.8% of the teachers worked in schools within rural counties, and 63.9% of the teachers worked in a community with a poverty level above the national average. Teachers completed a survey which assessed the resources and trainings available to them and their perceived level of preparedness in meeting the needs of their students with ASD. In addition, the percentage of the population under the poverty line in each zip code was collected from the United States Census Bureau. A stepwise multiple regression was conducted to evaluate whether access to resources and level of poverty in the school community predicted teachers’ perceived level of preparedness. The overall model was significant, and indicated that the two predictors explained 15.9% of the variance (R2 = .159, F(2,291) = 27.47, p < .001). It was found that both access to resources and level of poverty in the school community significantly predicted teachers’ perceived level of preparedness, (ß = .37, p < .001; ß = -.15, p = .07). Overall, these results highlight the numerous challenges faced by teachers educating students with ASD. Specifically, these results indicate that teachers’ perceived preparedness to meet the needs of students with ASD was significantly related to both the resources available to them and the level of poverty in the school community. As researchers continue to study school-based ASD interventions, these school-specific factors should be examined, as they are vital to successful inclusive environments.