Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Christopher Wagner (Director), Dr. Jie Zhang, Dr. Patti Whetstone, Dr. Jerry Ralston

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


The full implementation of school-based autism services has grown in importance over the past few decades. School systems are expected to provide high-quality educational services for students with autism spectrum disorders. Though several organizations provide recommendations for appropriate program components, Kentucky does not supply education agencies with a means of evaluating the current autism services offered within their districts and schools.

This descriptive study examined the current level of implementation of school-based autism services within an educational cooperative in Kentucky. The research was conducted to determine whether or not school districts are fully implementing essential program components as recommended by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Directors of special education and district autism team members from 17 school districts in an educational cooperative completed the Autism Program Quality Indicators and provided an implementation level rating for 14 essential program components. Responses from each group were compared to establish consistency between respondent groups. An overall rating score was assigned to each school district.

Quantitative data demonstrated that, on average, directors of special education reported higher levels of implementation than district autism members. However, the educational cooperative as a whole showed little variability between respondent groups,which indicated consistency in ratings. A comparison of the means for indicators by districts revealed areas of concern were not consistently distributed across school districts. Lower rating scores for indicators by district were disseminated throughout the educational cooperative. Lower rated program components included Community Collaboration, Family Involvement and Support, Curriculum, and Program Evaluation. Finally, the research revealed 75% of school districts included in the sample provided school-based autism programming that indicated sufficient evidence for quality services with most, but not all, students with autism.


Disability and Equity in Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Special Education Administration