Outcomes of a specialist Autism Spectrum Professional Development model for schools and students in South Australia

Author: Franki Ford

Ford, Franki, 2018 Outcomes of a specialist Autism Spectrum Professional Development model for schools and students in South Australia, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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As increasing numbers of students with autism are being enrolled in mainstream classrooms, today’s schools are required to address their preparedness to support the academic and social needs of this student group (Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders [AABASD], 2012; Boyle et al., 2011; Morrier, Hess, & Heflin, 2011; Odom, Cox, & Brock, 2013; Pas, Johnson, Larson, Brandenburg, Church, & Bradshaw, 2016). In South Australia, the State Government recognised this need and provided 80 Graduate Certificate in Education (GCE) scholarships for teachers and leaders to increase their capacity for more effectively educating students with autism in mainstream schools. The year-long (part-time) post graduate level scholarship program was offered by Flinders University and involved a combination of university-based classes and on-site support. The thesis is the report of an interpretive case study which analysed secondary data generated from teachers’ action plans, outcomes of action plans and students’ reports to assess the outcomes of their participation in the GCE. The research examines how leaders’ and teachers’ participation in the GCE influenced outcomes for participating schools and students. The research identified multiple areas for teacher and school improvement to support the needs of students with autism in regular classrooms. For example, schools recognised the need to improve their processes for Individual Education Plan (IEP) development and data collection, teacher professional development (PD) and increased whole school awareness and social supports for students with autism. Overall, the research demonstrated that the GCE encouraged the implementation of practices and supports that promoted greater awareness of autism and inclusivity at both the individual and whole school level.

Keywords: autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Graduate Certificate in Education, ASD, generalist teachers, individual education plan (IEP), data collection, teacher professional development, learning environments, whole school awareness, social supports

Subject: Special Education thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2018
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Julie McMillan