Date of Conferral







Jennifer L. Smolka


Autism spectrum disorder rates are climbing in the United States. Because this population is growing, research is needed to understand how to assist these individuals in pursuit of postsecondary educational and employment opportunities. The purpose of this qualitative study, as reflected in the central research question, was to investigate how a career and technical education program impacted the preparedness of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder for educational and employment opportunities beyond high school. The conceptual framework was based on Bronfenbrenner's ecological perspective of human development, Zhao and Frank's ecological perspective of technology, and Song's research about distributed cognition. This study used a single case study design, and the case was a career and technical education program at a high school located in Southwestern state. Participants included one program administrator, three career and technical education teachers, and two special education teachers. Data were collected from multiple sources, including individual interviews with participants and program documents. Data analysis included line-by-line coding and category construction to determine themes and discrepancies. Key findings indicated that the CTE program prepared ASD students for postsecondary educational and employment opportunities, differentiated instruction to meet the individual needs of ASD students, technologies such as computers helped ASD students prepare for postsecondary educational and employment opportunities, helped ASD students learn technical skills, life skills, and job skills. As a society we need to recognize ASD students are impacting the paradigm associated with special needs students as they attend universities, work study programs, technical schools, and other opportunities which have evaded this population.