by Brad Duncan
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 1 in 100 children in the United States has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. While over the last few years an increasing number of these children have begun to receive early intervention services, research shows that high quality and intensive intervention are critical for positive outcomes.
In an effort to improve the access to and receipt of high-quality services, the University of Kentucky College of Education’s Lisa Ruble and her co-investigators, Michael Toland, Lee Ann Jung and Jennifer-Grisham Brown of UK and John McGrew of Indiana University-Purdue University, received a prestigious two-year, $998,940 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to examine three types of professional development models of training and compare their effects on child and teacher outcomes.
“Our goal is to improve children’s responsiveness to their educational programs by developing effective consultation services combined with technology as a means for training and coaching teachers regardless of geographic location,” said Ruble, an associate professor in the Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. “There is no one treatment that helps all children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, so we want to develop individualized methods of supplying teachers with the means to provide the services these children need.”
Ruble already has found effectiveness from a consultation intervention and will be building upon these previous studies. She says that while the identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders is on the rise, the need for more school personnel trained in autism will continue to increase. Ruble’s team will look at the students’ outcomes, something other consultation studies have rarely looked at previously, and they will consult with teachers to personalize interventions.
“Personalizing interventions is essential,” Ruble said. “We are learning that children with autism are different from one another; while they share the label of autism, the teaching objectives and learning strategies will be different for each child.”
The team will follow 25 children whose teachers receive online autism training, 25 children whose teachers and parents receive consultation from the research team followed by in-classroom teacher coaching, and 25 children whose teachers and parents receive consultation followed by Web-based teacher coaching. Ruble also will evaluate the impact of these consultations on parental stress.
With the current rate of diagnosis, autism is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined. An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide are affected by autism.
For more information on Ruble’s research, visit www.ukautism.org.