Open Access Capstone
Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
Background: Neurodiverse students often face many challenges within their classroom environment due to a mismatch of the environmental demands and the student’s unique processing. This mismatch is often not understood by school support staff which can lead to adverse student outcomes in academic achievement and graduation rates. Support staff are often undertrained and unsupported in meeting the complex needs of neurodiverse students and OTs are often underutilized in this deficit.
Purpose: The purpose of this capstone project was to measure the knowledge and self-efficacy gained by an evidence-based training module for school support staff that promoted increased classroom engagement and regulation of neurodivergent students. Objects for this project included increasing staff competence, self-awareness, and confidence in how to support the regulation of neurodivergent students.
Methods: A quasi-experimental cross-sectional quantitative survey design was utilized to assess the effectiveness of a one-hour training on supporting the regulation of neurodivergent students. The data results obtained were de-identified. The survey was created and data results were analyzed through Qualtrics Software.
Results: A total of 26 district-employed special education support staff completed the posttraining survey. Most participants (81%) strongly agreed the training was helpful and none of the participants disagreed that the training was helpful. Many of the participants, (76.9%) strongly agreed the training increased their confidence in supporting neurodivergent students and reported many strategies they felt comfortable implementing including co-regulation and sensory-based strategies, and environmental supports. Paraprofessionals gained the most new knowledge and least reported gained confidence. The data showed there was not a direct correlation between increased experience and increased confidence gained. Overall, paraprofessionals were more willing to change their interactions with their neurodiverse students compared to teachers.
Theoretical Framework: This capstone project supports reducing the disparity students with disabilities face within their educational environments by addressing environmental barriers and changing attitudes and interactions of special education staff as described in the social model of disability within the PEOP model. Results of this study also indicated other variables impacting confidence levels beyond years of experience supporting the humanistic learning theory of how individuals have their own lived experiences, values, and attitudes that can shape their personal learning.
Conclusions: In conclusion, this capstone project supported the research gap and demonstrated the benefit of OTs supporting school-wide diversity training in promoting increased inclusion and optimum engagement of neurodivergent students.
Shirley O’Brien Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA
Leslie J. Hardman, OTD, OTR/L
2023 Jennifer S. Molina
Molina, Jennifer, "Enhancing Support Staff Self-Efficacy in Supporting Neurodiverse Students’ Classroom Engagement" (2023). Occupational Therapy Doctorate Capstone Projects. 118.
IRB Approval Number (if applicable)