Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased 150% over the last 20 years, affecting all communities, with future projections of further rise. This is a particular concern for the public education system, where laws mandate that schools provide meaningful education to all students. Resources must be in place to provide the level of support children with ASD require for a successful educational experience. These resources are often expensive and require specialized training to secure. Rural schools face unique barriers meeting the standards set forth through federal law. To determine the most productive use of available resources as well as to identify critical needs, a study was conducted in a rural community to assess stakeholder perceptions of students with ASD. We provided an online needs assessment questionnaire to stakeholders involved with children who have ASD in a rural school district. These stakeholders included parents, caregivers, educators, and community care providers of children with ASD. Also included were individuals 12 years and older with an ASD educational classification. In addition to the online assessment, we invited participants who wished to elaborate further on their responses for an in- person interview. We used mixed methods for analysis of the data. To determine response patterns among groups, descriptive statistics were used. Further analysis included consensual qualitative research methods to analyze open-ended questions in the survey and the in-person interviews. Results show that stakeholders perceive needs for better training, resources, and peer relationships as a focus for improvement within the rural community. The results will have greatest implications for the school district as it allocates resources to better meet the needs of students with ASD within the community. Key points of feedback to the local school district will focus on training and support resources, primarily for educators, but also for families. Accessible (e.g., free, online) training options will be the first recommendation for immediate implementation.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





autism, rural, education, evidence-based practice



Included in

Education Commons