Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. John Kregel


Autism now affects a significant number of students in schools. It is well documented that the unique learning characteristics of these students differ widely from other learners requiring teachers to possess specialized skills (Simpson, 2005). Despite advancements in instructional practices for students with autism (Iovannone, Dunlap, Huber, & Kincaid, 2003) little attention has been given to examining the qualities of special education teachers who deliver services to these students.This dissertation evaluated special education teachers' knowledge and implementation of educational practices critical for the improvement of students with autism and determined areas of training needs. The study was conducted with special education teachers employed in the Virginia Department of Education Region I. A survey instrument titled the Needs Assessment of Special Educators who Serve Students with Autism was created specifically for this research project. The survey evaluated the teacher's knowledge, implementation, and training needs of the Virginia Skill Competencies for Professionals and Paraprofessionals Supporting Individuals with Autism Across the Lifespan. The survey was distributed electronically to special education teachers. A total of 498 responded. This equated to 21.3% of special education teachers from Region I. Participants reported a low to intermediate level of knowledge as well as implementation of practices. They reported the greatest knowledge in general autism, and the least knowledge in sensory motor development. The greatest level of implementation was in individualization and support strategies and lowest in social skills. Participants indicated an intermediate need for training. The most frequently reported was a need for training in social skills development and the least frequently reported was training in individualization and support strategies. Relationships between the level of knowledge, implementation, and training needs and teachers' occupational characteristics were explored. Numerous occupational characteristics were found to have a relationship with level of knowledge and implementation, including area of endorsement, educational level, educational setting, number of students with autism taught, and student learning characteristics. There were no relationships found between the need for training and occupational characteristics. The results of this study have important implications for designing personnel preparation initiatives for current and future special educators.


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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

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