Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Henning, Mary Beth

Second Advisor

Johnson, Jesse W.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


Educators’ attitudes affect the success of their students. When children have a variety of challenges, such as children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), educators’ attitudes towards these children are specifically influenced, affecting the success of the child. Research has shown that professional development can improve the educator’s attitudes, therefore increasing the success of the students. School functioning skills, such as obtaining knowledge from a variety of formats and following class rules that vary from teacher to teacher and setting to setting, are especially difficult for children with ASD because such skills are not usually taught. They are part of the implicit curriculum that all students are assumed to learn instinctively. Evidenced-based instructional strategies, such as Direct Instruction (DI), can provide that skill set for these children.

The focus of this quasi-experimental quantitative study is to investigate the effect professional development has on special educators’ attitudes regarding children with ASD and the implicit curriculum of school functioning. Using a Pretest-Posttest-Posttest design, educators’ attitudes are measured prior to a day of professional development, immediately following that in-service day, and then five weeks later. Results show an improvement in the educators’ attitudes immediately after the in-service day, at a statistically significant level, and remain at the level. Additional variables comparing the level of education of the participants, the number of professional development types, and the amount of students with ASD participants had worked with were analyzed. Implications and directions for future research are discussed. The PowerPoint presentation used on the in-service day, titled “Helping Children with ASD Unlock the Implicit Curriculum of School Functioning” is included as supplemental materials.


181 pages




Northern Illinois University

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