The sensible teacher and the sensational students: experiential professional development to promote inclusion for students with autism spectrum disorder
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Inclusion of students with autism in mainstream schools presents both challenges and opportunities for stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and administrators (Humphrey & Lewis, 2008). Addressing these challenges requires time and resources to implement inclusion programs that meet the needs of both teachers and students. Occupational therapy practitioners use their knowledge and expertise to work collaboratively with members of the educational team to provide students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) equal access to the curriculum and school environment. It is necessary to ensure that these students are offered the same activities as their typically developing peers, while being provided support and services to accommodate their individual differences. This proposed doctoral project, “The Sensible Teacher and the Sensational Students: Experiential Professional Development to Promote Inclusion for Students with ASD,” will provide guidelines on best-practice interventions that are most realistic and effective within the classroom for students with the ASD diagnosis. This experiential professional development program will take place over 12 weeks. The first part of this series will be a 6-hour workshop offered 4 weeks after the first day of school, followed by eight weekly 1-hour in-class sessions with an occupational therapist. A 3- week gap before the conclusion of the experiential professional development will enable teachers to implement what they learned. Teachers then participate in a final 6-hour workshop to culminate their experiences. The goal of this professional development program is to improve the evidence-based practices of teachers who work with students with ASD. Specific objectives are to increase teachers’ self-efficacy, decrease their stress and frustration levels, and improve resources and access to supports in the hopes that this collaborative process will bring lasting change that allows teachers to improve their evidence-based teaching practices and feel valued and effective as educators and colleagues.