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Facilitating Evidence-Based Practice for Students with ASD

reviewed by Lauren Delisio - February 15, 2019

coverTitle: Facilitating Evidence-Based Practice for Students with ASD
Author(s): Christina R. Carnahan & K. Alisa Lowrey
Publisher: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore
ISBN: 159857941X, Pages: 144, Year: 2018
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Carnahan and Lowrey have written a book seamlessly integrating research with practice in a way that is simultaneously informative, practical, and useful to teachers, administrators, and teacher educators. At the heart of Facilitating Evidence-Based Practice for Students with ASD is the Evidence-Based Practice Classroom Observation Tool (EBP-COT; pp. 39-69), a resource that can be utilized in a multitude of ways. The authors make it clear that this tool is not meant to be used in an evaluative way, but rather to support teachers of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in a collaborative and constructive manner. From the very beginning of the text, the authors make this point known by discussing many of the challenges faced by educators who work with students with ASD, including feeling ill-equipped to teach this highly diverse group of students, confusion regarding how to best serve this population, and a lack of support, time, and/or resources. The EBP-COT was purposely created to address these significant and pervasive issues and to better support teachers and administrators who work with students with ASD.

The first three chapters provide the foundation for what is truly the heart of the book, the EBP-COT. The first chapter builds a foundation of knowledge and includes the relevant research related to the academic and behavioral characteristics of students with ASD. Further, the authors explain the cognitive characteristics of individuals with autism spectrum disorder, including often misunderstood concepts such as executive functioning, theory of mind, and central coherence, and how these characteristics may present in classrooms and effect the academic and behavioral growth of these students.

In Chapters Two and Three, Carnahan and Lowrey discuss pertinent special education legislation, regulations, and case law that have influenced the work of special education professionals, and define evidence-based practices, highlighting the critical distinction between a “research-based practice” (p. 30) and an evidence-based practice. The section titled “Evidence-Based Practices: How Will Educators Know Them When They See Them?” (p. 34) is especially useful to practitioners who may not necessarily be familiar with the components of an evidence-based practice.

The aforementioned “heart” of the book, the EBP-COT, is thoroughly described in the fourth chapter, including protocol and rubrics for scoring, and ways in which the tool can and should be used, with a specific focus on collaboration between and among teachers and administrators. The authors applied Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a theoretical framework during the creation of this tool, and the idea of choice is also woven in throughout. The three overarching categories–environmental considerations, instructional considerations, and communication–directly address the specific needs of individuals with ASD. However, the authors are clear in their directive that educators should always consider the individual needs of the student; there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to students with ASD. Beneath each of the three categories are specific evidence-based practices for educators to consider using in their classrooms; each practice is described in detail, along with rich examples as well as non-examples. The authors also provide users with easy to use charts in this chapter that very clearly outline the scoring protocol. The study that was conducted in order to validate and provide measures of reliability for the EBP-COT is included in the appendix as well.

In the final chapter, the authors offer suggestions related to building a school culture from the top down that supports collaboration and the use of evidence-based practices. This chapter is aimed at school leaders and includes theories related to school change and reform. Given the many challenges facing administrators and teachers, as well as the “gaps in the implementation for students with ASD” (p. 72) with regards to evidence-based practices, school leaders must be the agents of change within their schools, providing a clear path for the meaningful implementation of evidence-based practices. A collaboration guide is included to promote discussion and collaboration with the ultimate goal of implementing evidence-based practices, specifically for students with ASD; however, this guide could also be used as a means of collaborating on any number of critical issues.

There are a number of strengths to this book. The first is that the EBP-COT is seminal, relevant, timely, and absolutely necessary in the field given the ever-increasing prevalence of ASD in the United States. There is always a need in the field of education to bridge the gap between research and practice, especially related to teaching students with ASD, and this book does exactly that. The wealth of information that can be found in this text is rooted in and supported by all of the most current and relevant research in the field, including the use of visual supports, work systems, and peer-mediated instruction. The authors also highlight the importance of creating independent learners, which is an important consideration for all students, not just those with ASD.

Secondly, given the practical nature of this book, along with the wealth of information summarized in a succinct but thorough manner, it will be useful to a wide range of professional educators. Although the most common uses will most certainly be with administrators and teachers, as a teacher educator, I also see great value in utilizing this book in my classes. Facilitating Evidence-Based Practice for Students with ASD can be a valuable resource in teacher preparation programs as a means of helping pre-service teachers better understand the importance of evidence-based practices. It can also provide novice teachers with a practical tool to put into use during both their practicum and full-time student-teaching experiences.

Finally, the structure of the text is extremely appealing. Throughout every chapter, the authors provide real-life classroom examples to highlight salient points. Each chapter includes focus questions at the beginning that help guide the reader, reflection questions at the end to support the reader in thinking more deeply about the concepts, and a large list of online resources. Furthermore, there is a prevalent theme of collaboration and support that makes this text especially appealing. The authors clearly understand the challenges facing educators and administrators, and have created this tool as a way to help them while simultaneously meeting the needs of students with ASD, who will ultimately reap the benefits of improved teacher practice.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 15, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22673, Date Accessed: 10/24/2021 11:48:29 AM

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About the Author
  • Lauren Delisio
    Rider University
    E-mail Author
    LAUREN A. DELISIO, PhD, is an assistant professor of special education at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ. She taught in K-12 special education and general education classrooms for nine years in New York and Florida before completing her PhD at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Her research interests include improving the academic, behavioral, and social outcomes for students with ASD at the elementary level, the use of universal design for learning in curricula design, and the use of technology in special education. She is currently working on a research project related to executive functioning in individuals with ASD. She recently completed two book chapters on the topics of UDL and assistive technology and UDL and adaptive behaviors; the book will be published in spring 2019.
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