The prevalence of autism locally and globally is significant. The Autism Foundation of the Carolina's (AFC) recognized the need to fill a gap in services to families coping with autism, while educating future professionals about the condition and its effect on families. The purpose of the mixed-methods, participant-oriented, participatory study was to understand the impact of the AFC's organization-created University Autism Outreach Program (UAOP) on parent and university student participants.
The UAOP matches students from six local colleges and universities in the Charlotte, North Carolina area with families coping with autism in need of support. The program evaluation focused on the change in perceived stress before and after participation for parent participants. For university students, the evaluation focused on identifying professional growth areas for pre-service professionals, students' understanding of autism, as well as students' overall satisfaction with participation in the program.
The results indicated, for the parent participants, a statistically significant reduction in the perception of stress after participation. University students perceived a change in their knowledge of autism and in their ability to teach children with autism. In addition, participation contributed to students' professional growth in all ten areas on the Contribution of Mentoring scale. Interviews with parent and university student participants revealed the program provided opportunities to build interpersonal relationships, increase students' understanding of the individual child with autism, and strengthen self-confidence as professionals. While improvement areas were identified, the program reportedly met participants' expectations. Overall, participants detailed participation in the UAOP as a positive and valuable experience.
Future support programs will be able to utilize the findings and recommendations as a result of this study to better inform decision making when developing programs to assist families. In addition, the AFC will be able to implement improvements for the betterment of the program in the Charlotte area and perhaps assist in the program's expansion in other areas within the state.
|Commitee:||Nebrig, Michelle, Stegall, Bill|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational evaluation, Special education, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Autism, Autism education, Mixed-methods, Participatory evaluation, Perceived stress, Pre-service experience, Professional growth|
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