Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Special Education

First Advisor

Charlotte A. Hubbard

Department Affiliation

Special Education

Abstract

A total of 173 special education paraprofessionals and 49 parents of children with autism responded to a survey investigating perceived levels of confidence and knowledge of autism. The purpose of this study was to determine if paraprofessionals assigned to children with autism in Kentucky public schools were adequately trained, skilled and knowledgeable in their provision of services to children with autism. Parents scored significantly higher in their amount of autism knowledge when compared to paraprofessionals. Paraprofessionals were found to be significantly more confident in their ability to provide instructional support to children diagnosed with autism than were the parents. Results of this study indicated a lack of knowledge in autism among paraprofessionals hired to work with children with autism. Further, parents were not confident in the paraprofessionals' knowledge of autism, amount of training received in autism or ability to provide instructional support to children diagnosed with autism. These findings have serious implications for children diagnosed with autism in the public school system. They suggest that additional trainings and/or workshops in autism are needed for paraprofessionals. Further, results suggest that the qualifications and previous experience of paraprofessionals need to be carefully considered during the hiring process to ensure the most qualified candidates were selected to work with such a complex, growing population.

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