Paskins, R. T. (2018). Supporting students with autism spectrum disorder in post-secondary education settings: Common barriers and needed accommodations and supports (Publication No. 10933459) [Doctoral dissertation, Utah State University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2108687988
Utah State University (Logan, UT); ProQuest document ID: 2108687988; also available online at https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/etd/7284/
The perspectives of postsecondary disability service professionals were investigated through an expert panel decision process to address the academic needs of postsecondary students with autism. Barriers to accommodations implementation during course examinations, and specific accommodations provided for course exams, were emphasized when possible in the Findings section.
A panel of disability service professionals participated in three rounds of specialized correspondence, making use of panelists' expert knowledge, and enlisting the Delphi technique for consensus decision making. Round 1 was participated in by 27 panelists, Round 2 involved 23 of the initial panelists, and Round 3 was completed by 21 panelists. Despite attrition, a total of 27 professionals participated in providing data sufficient to contribute to conclusive findings. Panel participants were selected if they have expert knowledge on the subject, were willing to commit to the study process, could provide feedback, and were stakeholders as it pertained to the outcome. Participants were employed in various roles and with various credentials at four-year postsecondary institutions in eight geographic regions such as (most prominently) the Mountain west and South Atlantic regions (U.S.). Additional participant information on education, professional certifications, and specialized training on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were reported.
Data were gathered during three successive rounds of specialized written communication and correspondence in the form of educator surveys, toward the consensus-based identification of three sets of information: (a) lists of barriers that can disrupt the provision of academic accommodations for students with ASD; (b) lists of supports, currently available or unavailable, that would benefit students with ASD; and (c) lists of individual or systemic barriers in general that have presented difficulties for students with ASD to achieve academic success. The stages of data analysis of the three rounds made use of content analysis techniques and descriptive data processes including endorsement frequencies. The frequency of barriers being experienced, and the amount of benefit of the supports, were rated. Degrees of consensus were also quantified. Barriers to implementation, supports and accommodations, and individual and systemic barriers with high frequency and high consensus were designated high priority for attention and use. Final lists were separately reported according to priority levels. Data pertinent to the first and second sets of information were most emphasized in this summary.
Thirty-four barriers were identified related to implementation of academic accommodations: 18 high-priority barriers (frequently observed, with strong consensus) and 16 low-priority barriers. High priority barriers included faculty members knowledge and practices: limited understandings of and discomfort with autism, unfamiliarity with accommodating students with autism, and problems implementing identified accommodations. Students with autism had difficulties such as articulating needs, awareness of available accommodations, and following through with using accommodations; parents of students seemed over-involved and had unrealistic expectations regarding requested accommodations. Participants observed that available accommodations were sometimes insufficient to address unique needs of all students with autism, such as sensory accommodations during classroom instruction. Forty-five supports were identified; 35 were rated "high priority," and addressed executive functioning needs and sensory difficulties for students with autism such as specialized study or self-management strategy instruction and direct support academic check-ins or mentoring; relevant to exam accommodations, supports included exam-taking skill instruction, self-advocacy on accommodations, and coursework flexibility in terms of the products being graded. Participants also identified 47 individual barriers (37 high priority) and 37 systemic barriers (16 high priority) to postsecondary academic persistence. Topics of concern included social skills, executive functioning, self-advocacy, mental health, faculty barriers, structural barriers, direct supports, and disability services office supports.