Date of Award


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching, Learning, and Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Julie Rutland


This is a study of teachers’ perceptions of the use of play-based curricula as an effective model of instruction for children with special needs. Participants surveyed were representative of preschool teachers in rural southeastern Kentucky. The study employed qualitative methods. Semi structured interviews were used to collect data from the participants to elicit rich responses based on real-life experiences using play-based curricula. No earlier studies had been conducted on this topic, and the research base was limited. Research participants consisted of thirteen preschool teachers from both public preschool and licensed childcare programs. The findings indicated that most teachers interviewed agreed with theoretical and evidence-based findings that use of play-based curricula is an effective model of instruction for children with special needs, specifically children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, Communication Disorders, and Down Syndrome. The study includes discussion of recommendations for further research.