Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Exceptional Student Education

First Advisor's Name

Elizabeth Cramer

First Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Patricia M. Barbetta

Third Advisor's Name

Maureen C. Kenny

Fourth Advisor's Name

Hillary Landorf

Keywords

autism, inclusion, general education, instructional accommodations, curriculum modifications, middle school

Date of Defense

3-23-2011

Abstract

The number of students identified as having autism increased by 500% in the past 10 years (United States Government Accountability Office, 2005). All students with disabilities are required to be placed in least restrictive environments and to be given access to the general curriculum in the major subjects of math, reading, writing, and science as mandated by federal legislation such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001). As a result of this legislation, an increasing number of students with autism are being educated in inclusive classrooms.

Most studies on general education access and curriculum modifications and/or instructional accommodations center on students with intellectual disabilities (e.g. Soukup, Wehmeyer, Bashinski, & Boviard, 2007; Wehmeyer, Lattin, Lapp-Rincker, & Agran, 2003). Wehmeyer et al. (2003) and Soukup et al. (2007) found included students with intellectual disabilities had more access to the general curriculum than mostly self-contained students. This meant included students were more likely to be working on the general curriculum as mandated by NCLB than those in only self-contained classrooms. This study builds and expands the research of Wehmeyer et al., as well as Soukup et al., by examining how students with autism are given access to the general curriculum through curriculum modifications and instructional accommodations used by general education teachers in three schools. This investigation focused on nine inclusive classrooms for students with autism using a parallel mixed methods design (Newman, Newman, & Newman, 2011). Classroom observations using both an IEP related checklist and field notes, teacher interviews, an archival document review of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the selected students with autism were performed.

Findings of this study were organized by interview questions and subsequent coding categories. Quantitative data were organized in a nominal scale. Participants asserted that their middle school students with autism functioned well in their classrooms, occasionally exhibiting behavioral differences. Most instructional accommodations on IEPs were being implemented by participants, and participants often provided additional instructional accommodations not mandated by the IEP. The majority of participants credited county workshops for their knowledge of instructional accommodations.

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