Purdue University Graduate School
Chapters 1-6 FINAL VERSION.pdf (40.38 MB)

Investigation of research-proven comfort and support strategies for students with autism aspectrum disorder

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posted on 2020-05-01, 04:19 authored by Carmen Yvette CleavelandCarmen Yvette Cleaveland
One out of every twenty children in school is affected, in significant ways, in classrooms across our nation by sensory processing disorders (SPD) (Nodding, 2017). In classrooms where students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are present, that number rises even higher because almost 100% of students with ASD experience SPD (Murray, Baker, Murray-Slutsky & Paris, 2009). Teachers must understand the unique needs of students with SPD in order to create environments where students feel comfortable to learn in every day. Optimal learning for students with SPD requires an environment that supports and assists them to effectively and systematically organize and understand the information they are taught. Unfortunately, most classrooms present sensory challenges that can be frustrating or even overwhelming for students diagnosed with SPD. The daily negative experience at school often adds more stress for these students due to their social interactions and how they regulate emotions (Lytle and Todd, 2009).

There are two purposes of the study: 1) general education teachers’ use of interventions to support students with ASD and SPD was examined to determine what worked most effectively in their classrooms, and (2) general education teachers’ perception of barriers for implementing research-based strategies was examined in order to identify potential problems in creating supportive environments for students with ASD and SPD in the general education classroom. Eighteen teachers participated in the study at a private school with 335 students in a suburban area. The survey included 8 questions about the effectiveness of sensory interventions for students with ASD and/or SPD at school.

The result of this study showed that the majority of teachers want to be supportive to students diagnosed with SPD. Seventeen teachers (94%) expressed a concern for students who may feel overwhelmed by providing some variation of a calming area within their classroom Concerning the use of flexible seating, 6 teachers (33%) responded that they do not offer flexible seating, and 3 teachers (17%) indicated it was the least effective intervention they offered students. These responses could indicate that there is misunderstanding concerning the use of flexible seating and how to effectively implement it within the general education classroom. Another notable result is that 7 general education teachers (39%) indicated they lacked the space to provide a calming area for students in their classrooms.

The result of the current study supports the findings in previous research that there is a need for teachers to be more knowledgeable about how to create classrooms that offer support, effective strategies for students diagnosed with SPD. A handbook was created for general education and special education teachers based on the result of the present survey study and findings in previous studies. This handbook focuses on clear explanations of the unique stresses that students with SPD face, with the hope that if teachers have a clearer understanding about the needs of these students, they will be inspired to consistently offer research-proven strategies to support and encourage their students who face unique challenges in the school environment every day.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Education


  • Educational Studies

Campus location

  • Fort Wayne

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Jeong-il Cho

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Dr. Jane Leatherman

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Rama Cousik

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