Date of Award



© 2015 Heather Wilmot

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Michelle Collay

Second Advisor

Ella Benson

Third Advisor

Joyce Robinson


A mixed-methods research study was conducted in a small, rural western Maine school department. The intent of this research was to reveal what kind of programming is available to students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and how the availability of programming is influenced by the perceptions of educators and leaders in a public school department. In addition, the research addressed how the background and professional development of the employees impacted the availability of programming for students with ASD. Forced survey questions included quality indicators for programming for students with ASD and pre-selected follow-up focus groups questions were used.

Data analysis included a basic univariate frequency for mean and frequency; and a correlation analysis for the forced-survey questions was run. Both the quantitative and qualitative portions of the research were coded for analytic consideration. Conceptual categories that were implicit or explicit in the data were used in the building of theory.

The data from the survey responses and focus group sessions uncovered key findings. Across all subgroup participants indicated that the greatest strength in the current public education programming was in the individualized programming. Individualized programming had a high rate of availability and perception of importance. The data revealed that there was value associated with programming for the communication needs of student as well as focusing on the maintenance and generalization of learned skills in more complex environments.

The focus group data showed that across respondents a student’s present levels of performance and needs had the greatest influence on how programming for students with ASD was determined. It also uncovered that the majority of opportunities for training of special education personnel happened outside of the school department. This training centered on related topics and general interventions. It was noted that professional development and training was valued across the board.


Ed.D. Dissertation