Confidence with Autism

It’s that time of the month again…wait! Not THAT!

It’s Research Tuesday!

research tuesdayThat means it’s time for the SLP Bloggers to dust off their journal sleuthing skills and review an article. I seem to always have trouble deciding on which article I want to write about. I either have several and can’t seem to choose, or none of them inspire me. Thankfully, after several days of hemming and hawing…err…preocastrination looking around I decided on the following article. So…without further delay…

Title: Autism Spectrum Disorders: Experience, Training, and Confidence Levels of School-Based Speech-Language Pathologists. 

Authors: Allison M. Plumb and Laura W. Plexico

Background: As we all know (or should know anyway), the prevalence of Autism is increasing. In the early 2000’s the prevalence of autism was thought to be 1:150. Then it dropped to 1:110 and as of 2012 1:88 with rates as high as 1:54 for males. A recent Forbes article states that it is actually as high as 1:50 for everyone [but that’s a whole different article that talks about late identifying and other issues]. 

ASD has a number of core deficits (repetitive behaviors, social skill deficits, communication difficulties, etc.). However, in addition to those, there are other difficulties associated with a myriad of diagnoses falling under the ASD umbrella. Obviously, if the rate is as low as 1:50 or as high as 1:150, the odds of a school-based SLP working with someone having a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder are fairly high. The speech-language pathologist plays an integral role in helping these individuals. But, does graduate school prepare them for the intricacy of working with this population?

Purpose:  The purpose of the research was to expand on previous research (Schwartz & Drager, 2008) and compare recent graduates (post 2006) with pre-2006 graduates to determine 1) if there were differences in their academic and clinical experiences and 2) was there a difference in their confidence in working with children with ASD.

Questions: Do recent graduate students/clinicians feel more or less confident working with students with ASD as compared to their “older” colleagues who graduated before the ASHA Policy pertaining to ASD were published. A total of eight questions were asked: 1) degree of academic and clinical training in ASD, 2) do recent graduates differ in academic and clinical training from those who graduated before 2006 (ASHA Policy Publication date), 3) What does the SLP indicate his/her role and responsibility is in the assessment/treatment of ASD, 4) intervention/assessment methods used by school-based SLPs, 5) what level of confidence do SLPs have in their abilities to serve children with ASD, 6) Do recent grads differ in confidence from those who graduated prior to 2006, 7) Are SLPs attending CE sessions to further their abilities to serve children with ASD, and 8) What type of supports are SLPs receiving from their school districts to attend CE sessions to better serve children with ASD.

What they did: The researchers contacted the ASHA SIG  coordinators, before selecting the Division 1 and Division 16 SIGS (because of their school-based focus). A survey was sent out to school-based SLPs. A search of the ASHA member database was also conducted to find people who listed their current employment as school-based. Participants were selected in 10 different states across the US.

A total of 7,461 emails were sent out, 532 surveys were started. There were 53 respondents recruited from the list serv and 479 recruited from the membership directory. The researchers reported a return rate of 6.4% with a final participant number of 401 individuals from 29 different states completing the survey.

Of those who responded 98% had Master’s degrees, 41% had greater than 16 years experience in the schools, 24% had between 6 – 10 years in the schools, and 15% had less than 5 years in the schools. Only 9.7% (n=39) graduated after 2006, while 90% (n=362) graduated before 2006.

The survey asked 46 questions in six main areas: background, academic/clinical preparation, service delivery, evidence based practice, confidence in service provision, and support provided by school districts.

Results: The results of the study supported the study of Schwartz and Drager (2008). There is a lot of analysis information in the article, and I found it quite interesting. But in the interest of keeping this post actually shorter than the article, I’m not going to report it all here. In a nutshell what the researchers found were: 1) recent graduates receive more pre-professional training related to ASD (even though everyone wanted even more), 2) there’s nothing like experience to make one feel confident – even though the recent graduates received more graduate training – those graduating before 2006 felt more confident working with this population and the complexity of treatment. Nearly everyone reported attending CE sessions specifically dealing with this population as well.

Discussion: It’s no surprise that the “older” graduates (before 2006) feel more confident in treating ASD. Many newer graduates are still feeling the growing pains of settling into a school-based position. Couple this with the typical insecurities of “am I doing this right” and “what happens if I do it wrong,” it doesn’t surprise me at all that even though the more recent graduates had more coursework – the experienced SLP has more confidence.

The article also talks about continuing education courses. I believe CE courses help boost confidence levels. Mainly because while in grad school you are so overwhelmed with everything, it’s hard to figure out what’s truly important to retain (and we all know there’s a lot that’s important…but not retaining worthy [yes, I went there]). By the time an SLP is out and about for a year or two and begins to attend the CE sessions, she or he has an idea of what to expect. More importantly, the subject matter isn’t a nameless/faceless text book student…it’s one of our students. It’s little Timmy who you can’t figure out how to keep from spitting on you…or it’s Blake who is nonverbal but so bright and how do you get him to communicate that intelligence so others can see it…and it’s Jeff who is able to function in the classroom but so socially inept he can’t function in the hallway or lunchroom or playground. When we can attach meaning to the training – and add it to our own schema’s of understanding – we retain that information so much better…when we understand better – we have more confidence.

So…what do you think of this article? Do you feel prepared to deal with the intricacies of working with this population and their myriad of problems? Drop me a note here and let me know…

Until then…Adventure on!


And don’t forget to get the compilation of all the SLP Bloggers Research Tuesday at Gray Matter Therapy.

3 thoughts on “Confidence with Autism

  1. Pingback: Journal Confession | Activity Tailor

  2. Thanks for sharing this info! I am 5 years out of school and work at a charter school for kids with autism. I still feel like I am learning new stuff everyday. thanks!

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