Teacher Help for ASD: The Development of an Accessible, Evidence-based, Online Intervention for Classroom Teachers and Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
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With a move toward inclusive education, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) spend at least a portion of their school day in the inclusive classroom. These students often present with behavioural, academic, and social challenges for which teachers may not have adequate training. The aim of Teacher Help for ASD program is to provide an accessible (online), evidence-based resource for classroom teachers to optimize the educational experience for students with ASD. To develop and evaluate this program, a stepped approach was taken, including a literature review, usability testing, effectiveness testing, and study of implementation barriers and facilitators. The systematic literature search revealed 13 classroom-based, teacher-implemented ASD intervention studies, all with some demonstrated effectiveness. These results, along with knowledge about best clinical practice, was used to develop the Teacher Help for ASD program. The usability of the new program was then assessed, with the User Experience Honeycomb (Morville & Sullenger, 2010), by classroom teachers, ASD support professionals, and ASD advocates with lived experience. The program was positively received and believed to be useful for classroom teachers, with participants strongly endorsing the program and providing mostly minor constructive feedback. Next, an effectiveness study was conducted in schools across Canada. However, due to recruitment challenges, insufficient quantitative evidence was collected to power the analyses adequately. Qualitative data reflected positive views in terms of the utility and effectiveness of this program. Finally, interviews were conducted with teachers and support staff to better understand the barriers and facilitators to using Teacher Help for ASD. Using the Theoretical Domains Framework (Atkins et al., 2017), the environmental context and resources, knowledge, and beliefs about consequences domains emerged as being most relevant for both impeding and facilitating factors. Additionally, intentions and social influences were important facilitators while professional role and identity and reinforcement were barriers. Generally, the usability and accessibility of the program were identified as facilitators. In summary, various stakeholders believed that Teacher Help for ASD is a valuable resource for classroom teachers. However, there is a need to consider how to assess effectiveness in schools, and how to implement this program in schools across Canada.