Case Study

How ASF-Funded Research Has Changed School-Based Interventions

Autism Science Foundation funding has helped change the interventions students with autism receive in school and has also made treatment accessible to more families.  It is critical that interventions designed in a lab be tested in public school settings, where many children with ASD learn. For example, in a clinical setting, a clinician who either developed or has been well-trained in delivering the intervention is in charge, and there are fewer distractions that might prevent the intervention or service from working. With the support of teachers and school administrators, ASF has worked to test these interventions in the real world to ensure that they can be used effectively and help children learn to the best of their potential.

The first step in determining whether a specific intervention can be used in schools is to help teachers and school aides learn it, get their feedback on it, and adjust it so they know how to implement it in their classrooms. ASF provided funds to Dr. Jill Locke, who started out by modifying previously existing basic social skills programs for aides and paraprofessionals, and then studying their effectiveness. Her work showed that with the right amount of training, teachers and aides could consistently and confidently implement this new curriculum for their students. Further studies by her group have helped determine best practices for classroom settings and recess environments.  Additional  ASF-funded research, including work by Dr. Gazi Azad, determined that agreements between teachers, aides and clinicians on what should be measured, who should receive the intervention and how it can be delivered were key to successfully moving an intervention from a clinic to a large public school.

ASF funding has transformed the nature of school-based interventions: how they are designed, how they are implemented and how they are measured.  Because children with ASD in mainstream classrooms spend most of their young lives in school, improving the quality and efficacy of interventions by working directly with school administrators, teachers and aides is incredibly important. We are very proud to support this area of research, which has shown a direct benefit for families whose children with autism attend public schools.