Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Derek Schroll

Abstract

Many secondary students with autism (SWA) included in the general education (GE) classroom demonstrate academic and behavioral challenges. Most GE teachers who have inclusive SWA in their classes receive little or no training on evidence-based practices to address these challenges. The purpose of this qualitative bounded case study was to explore secondary GE teachers' perceptions of and experiences with the academic and behavioral challenges of inclusive SWA. Theoretical frameworks of the weak central coherence theory for autism and executive dysfunction grounded the study. Data from 6 purposefully chosen secondary GE inclusion teachers, who educated SWA and students with autism spectrum disorder from one middle school setting, were collected using individual semistructured telephone interviews and independent participant journals. Criteria to be a participant included teachers who had taught more than 5 years, earned a master's degree, and taught inclusive SWA. The data were thematically analyzed using a segmenting-and-labeling open coding process. Participants revealed that secondary inclusive SWA had low cognitive processing, difficulty understanding content and maintaining an adequate pace while working on tasks, and demand of teacher attention. Furthermore, SWA demonstrated behavioral challenges controlling emotional outbursts, being organized, and socialization with peers. It is recommended that GE teachers have paraprofessionals with SWA preparation, opportunities for multilevel collaboration, and increased autism-specific training to assist in meeting academic and emotional needs of SWA. These actions could contribute to positive social change through assisting GE teachers in planning and improved instruction and postsecondary outcomes for secondary inclusive SWA.