The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (autism) has steadily increased dramatically over the past generation, and more students with autism than ever before are enrolled in the public education system. Educating students with autism presents unique challenges (e.g., shortage of staff, low incidence of autism, limited programming) to rural school districts. Rural districts must adhere to the same federal and state guidelines (e.g., Individuals with Disabilities Education Act & Free and Appropriate Public Education) as urban districts that have more readily available resources in providing appropriate programming. This study examined stakeholders' perceptions of the current services offered in the targeted rural district including effectiveness of such resources. Fifty one stakeholders participated, including general education/special education teachers, related services providers, administration, parents, and students diagnosed with autism. Research questions were accessed through an online survey with the option of a follow up interview that addressed perceptions of current accommodations and modifications implemented in the general education classroom and their overall effectiveness. The data was analyzed by mixed methods, including both qualitative and quantitative data. The findings from stakeholders presented four common themes: (a) increased trainings for stakeholders; (b) a need to improve collaboration amongst all school staff including communication with parents of autistic students; (c) enhanced Child Find through early identification of autistic students; and (d) access to additional resources within the rural school and the community. Immediate recommendations for the rural district include: (a) web-based training options through email, school newsletters, inservice, and on the district's special education site; (b) forming a quarterly focus and/or support group with parents, educators, and administration to strengthen the partnership between the school and the community; (c) initiating conversations with local pediatric offices to implement early identification autism screening tools; and (d) collaboration with the Utah Parent Center to organize parent meetings/trainings. Additionally, the Local Education Agency (LEA) should continue to utilize regional itinerant supports and explore options to increase these services for the district. An executive summary was presented to the local school board to guide future decisions regarding the needs of students with autism as well as improve the outcomes and quality of their lives.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





autism, rural, accommodations, services



Included in

Counseling Commons