A proposal for an evidence-based online course to support executive functioning and social skills in postsecondary students with autism spectrum disorder
Matteo, Amanda Julianna
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The population of young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is growing as more individuals with ASD age into adulthood. Almost half of the children diagnosed with ASD who were surveyed in 2010 demonstrated average or above average intelligence (CDC, 2014). Despite promising intellectual abilities, only 17.4% of young adults with ASD enroll in a four-year college, and only 38.8% of students with ASD graduate postsecondary education within eight years of leaving high school (Newman et al., 2011). Therefore, there is a growing niche for postsecondary support programs specifically designed for students with ASD. This doctoral project includes two parts: the development of an evidence-based online course for postsecondary students with ASD and the proposed evaluation of the online course. There are five theoretical reasons for poor postsecondary outcomes for young adults with ASD: (1) the increasing prevalence of ASD, (2) the absence of a “golden standard” in postsecondary transition for young adults with ASD, (3) the existing differences between educational and disability rights legislation at the secondary and postsecondary education levels, (4) the diagnostic characteristics of ASD, and (5) the characteristics of collegiate culture. The proposed online course curriculum will utilize evidence-based content and design from 29 pre-existing postsecondary support programs for students with ASD, and successful executive function and social skills curricula for students with ASD (“Unstuck and On Target”, Cannon, Kenworthy, Alexander, Werner, & Anthony, 2011; “PEERS for Young Adults”, Gantman, Kapp, Orenski, & Laugeson, 2011; “PEERS Curriculum for School-Based Professionals”, Laugeson, 2014). The proposed feasibility study will measure the feasibility and acceptability of participation in an online course for college students with ASD. The proposed feasibility study will also measure preliminary outcomes regarding participants’ executive functioning, social skills, self-determination, and life satisfaction.