For Your Knowledge-
Afterschool Educators’ Perceptions on Strategies for Instructional Programs Used for Students with Autism: A Qualitative Case Study
Dr. Karen D. Dukes
DOCTOR OF EDUCATION
SPECIALIZATION: EXCEPTIONAL STUDENT
This qualitative case study focused on an afterschool program having trained teachers to adequately address the needs of students with autism. The implementations of afterschool programs for students with autism are to have qualified teachers that are prepared to help students. Specifically, the problem was that it was not known how teachers in one afterschool program perceived their preparedness to meet the academic and social needs of students with autism who attended afterschool programs. Therefore, the specific problem addressed, was the lack of preparation/training of teachers in afterschool programs to meet the needs of children with autism. This study might provide a heightened understanding of the benefits of afterschool programs for students with autism. The focus was not necessarily the teachers who were interviewed, but the relationship between the new design and implementation of afterschool programs and teachers. This aspect represented the phenomenon that the researcher studied and in general, the researcher wished to understand the education and social development of children with autism due to the recent policy of inclusion of such students in regular classrooms by exploring teachers’ perceptions who were involved in these programs. The teachers that participated in this study were all African Americans women, who had also been identified as over eighteen years of age. The measure allowed eight to 10 teachers to participate in the interviews and nine were conducted. The questions that were posed to each of the participants during face-to-face interviews pertained to the teachers’ experience teaching students with autism, their individual perceptions of the needs of students with autism, and their ideas on the development and improvement of afterschool programs that serve students with autism.
The analysis of the data collected was organized based on the responses from the sub-questions on the questionnaire. Common themes were derived from the resulting interview responses once reviewed through the lens of coding and pattern matching. Results from this study indicate that teachers desire to teach students with autism well, but do not believe they are prepared to design afterschool programs that service these students effectively. It is recommended that teachers who work with students with autism in afterschool programs receive training on a regular basis, as well as resources that are specifically designed for these students. To ensure the effectiveness of the instruction of students with autism in afterschool programs, it may be well worth it to adequately equip teachers with the tools and education they need to be prepared to meet the academic and social needs of these students. There are implications here that teachers who are adequately trained and equipped with resources perceive their preparedness to meet the academic and social needs of students with autism as higher than those without the training and resources. The research data analysis yielded information that reflected a connection with the problem and purpose of this study. A greater understanding of teacher perceptions about their preparedness to design afterschool programs for students with autism has been gained, and the resulting data, though aligned with previous literature on afterschool programs, teachers working with students with autism, and the lack of training, also provides new insight into teachers’ particular needs and perception regarding the instruction of students with autism in afterschool programs. This study, therefore, adds to the body of knowledge for these topics.