The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has continued to rise each year. This fact has significance in the area of education. The rise in prevalence of autism means an increase of students with autism in schools. Educators have the need to be prepared to provide an appropriate education for these students but may not have training or resources to be effective. Rural communities may have even more concerns about education for students with ASD due to geographic isolation and the lack of available educators in their area trained to support the specific needs of these students. To determine the best use of available resources and identify critical needs, a study of stakeholder perceptions of the needs of students with ASD was conducted in a rural Utah community of approximately 15,000 people. Key stakeholders were provided an opportunity to respond to an online needs assessment questionnaire regarding the educational interventions and services available in the rural school district, as well as rate the effectiveness of the above-mentioned services. Key stakeholders included: parents and caregivers of children with ASD, the rural school district’s educators, community care providers, and individuals 12 years and older who have been classified as having an ASD in the rural school district. Further, upon completion of the online needs assessment, the participants were invited, if they wished to elaborate further, to meet by phone or in person in an interview format with the researcher to discuss their perceptions in more detail than was possible in the online needs assessment questionnaire. Mixed methods were used to analyze the data. Quantitative data were first analyzed using descriptive statistics to characterize patterns in responses between groups. The qualitative data from open-ended questions in the survey and the in-person interviews were analyzed using consensual qualitative research methods. Results showed that all stakeholders believe that better communication from the school district and more training are needed for educators and related professionals. These results have implications for the school district as they plan their use of available resources to better meet the needs of students with ASD. Pursuit of targeted training options for educators may be one of the most effective use of available resources to meet these needs.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





education, autism spectrum disorder, rural, evidence based practices