Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Jennifer Courduff


Students with autism need social skills to succeed academically, which can be fostered with the use of digital social stories (DSSs). While many special educators are expected to use DSSs to teach social skills because of increased elementary autism diagnoses, a significant number of DSS users are unprepared. The problem addressed in this qualitative project study was that special educators were not receiving adequate professional development and implementation support to use DSSs to teach autism-related social skills. The purpose of this research was to explore the special educators’ experiences with professional development and implementation support. The concerns-based adoption model and Magana’s T3 framework were used as conceptual frameworks, and the research questions were created to explore special educators' professional development and implementation support experiences with DSSs. This study used a basic, qualitative design to select 11 participants and collect interview data. A comprehensive two-cycle coding process was used for data analysis. The findings revealed five themes: a lack of professional development, school–wide support, district support, limited digital tools and resources, and unpreparedness to use DSSs. A professional development plan addressed these themes. A scaffolded 5-week online course on curating and developing DSSs was created. This study will contribute to positive social change for special educators using DSSs to teach appropriate social skills to students with autism and affect the local community by helping students promote self-awareness, better understand and follow the rules and routines, gain a sense of others' perspectives, and identify critical social cues.