Date of Award

12-22-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Mary Renck Jalongo, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Anne Creany, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Joann Migyanka, D.Ed.

Abstract

ASD knows no boundaries in terms of racial, ethnic, economic, educational or social background; it can affect any family and any child (Autism Society of America, 2009). As the population struggles to understand the disorder, parents and teachers find themselves on a quest to meet the needs of children diagnosed with autism, both in the home and the classroom. In contrast to their typical peers, students with ASD are more apt to display signs of uneven development of skills that are usually the precursors to reading (Lanter & Watson, 2008). We do not know what specific oral language abilities of children with ASD may contribute to their success in reading, and the studies in this area are limited in scope and duration. Since literacy extends throughout the curriculum, it is important to understand the underpinnings of educating students with ASD and the process by which their literacy skills develop and emerge. The concept of emergent literacy suggests that children form literacy skills at an early age due to exposure to literacy artifacts, literacy events, and responsive adults and peers (Highnam, Raschke & Kohler, 2008). This study evaluates teacher beliefs and perceptions of literacy acquisition; teacher practices in the classroom and classroom environment, the responses of students with ASD to literacy events, and the perspectives of the parents regarding literacy. By studying these elements, it is hoped that this research will further support the importance of early exposure to literacy events and advance the teaching practices for the student with ASD. These elements were examined by interviews of teachers and parents, observations of classroom practices, evaluation of classroom environment using the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale-Revised, and artifacts of student work during literacy events. The results from this study demonstrated that there are key strategies and practices that are important to the literacy acquisition of students with ASD, the classroom environment is significant to the student with ASD, the teacher and parent beliefs influence the acquisition of literacy in the home and classroom, and the artifacts of students work can serve as a verification of literacy acquisition in students with ASD.

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