Research ► Thinking small to think big: Modular approach for autism programming in schools


Anderson, C. M., Iovannone, R. Smith, T., Levato, L., Martin, R., Cavanaugh, B., Hocheimer, S., Wang, Hongyue, & Iadarola, S. (2020). Thinking small to think big: Modular Approach for Autism Programming in Schools (MAAPS). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

ABSTRACT: To date there are no evidence-based comprehensive interventions for use in school settings. There are numerous barriers to delivery of high-quality interventions in schools that have limited the transfer of research-based interventions to school settings. Modular Approach to Autism Programing for Schools (MAAPS) is a framework for implementation of evidence-based interventions in school settings that is designed to address these barriers. The development and initial evaluation of MAAPS was conducted using an implementation-science framework and results indicate that MAAPS is aligned with needs and resources available in schools, that it had excellent social validity, and that there is good evidence that MAAPS is effective for addressing core and associated features of autism in educational settings.

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What was studied?

We studied a new intervention framework that we called MAAPS (Modular Approach to Autism Programs in Schools) to support teachers of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The framework was designed to help teachers use evidence-based practices effectively.

Why did you study this?

Educators struggle to support students with ASD. Reasons include not enough training, resources, and support. We wanted to help schools better support students with ASD and improve student outcomes.

What did you do?

We developed MAAPS to support educators in helping students with ASD achieve goals that they, their parents, and their teachers said were most important for them. Once goals were identified, we helped teachers identify an intervention that was evidence-based and would fit their classroom. We worked with teachers to adapt the intervention to fit the student and classroom context and then we provided ongoing and collaborative coaching to help the teacher implement the intervention.

What did you find?

Students whose teachers worked with the MAAPS framework had better outcomes in academic participation, social skills, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors then did students whose teachers didn’t use MAAPS. Also, teachers said MAAPS was feasible, easy to understand, and effective.

What is next?

We are planning a follow-up study when we will implement MAAPS with more students and teachers in more schools. We will do this to make sure MAAPS works with different students and in different settings. We also want to learn more about the coaching process and develop ways to train educators to be coaches for other educators.