Self-advocacy at the university level : teaching students with autism spectrum disorder to advocate for their needs

Tapia, Mark Antonio
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Increasingly, students with ASD are attending tertiary education levels. Data indicates the numbers are increasing, but it is difficult to certify the percentage of students diagnosed with ASD attending postsecondary education. Rates vary across studies about how many students with ASD attend postsecondary education because many do not graduate compared to individuals without disabilities. This information signifies an important area of study in that research needs to address how we can best support adults with ASD attending postsecondary education programs to ensure their graduation rates are in line with those who do not have disabilities. Research provides some evidence to support self-advocacy skills, but little has occurred to explore how best to teach these skills at the postsecondary level. To that end, there is a positive model that emphasizes the unique needs of persons with autism, and it is the video model. Video modeling has a solid evidence base; however, studies involving video modeling for undergraduate students to advocate on college campuses are non-existent. The current study sought to explore how the use of video modeling, paired with a task analysis and role-play, impacted the ability of undergraduate students with ASD to use self-determination and self-advocacy skills in a university setting successfully. The video modeling intervention covered four essential areas of self-advocacy identified by the literature, including a) requesting accommodations from disability services, b) talking to a professor to disclose accommodations, c) locating services/supports throughout campus, and d) handling situations when a professor is not accommodating. Participants were required in the baseline phase to check in on their progress by completing a questionnaire about self-advocacy skills related to an intervention package consisting of a video model, a task analysis, and role-playing about specific components related to self-advocacy. Although there is a paucity using precise psychometric scales towards self-advocacy, the Self-Management Self-Test (SMST) was used as a template to create the questionnaire utilizing the four components of self-advocacy skills. The methodology used was a complex reversal (ABACADAE) design. For each phase, the participants watched a video model about four elements of self-advocacy and role-played the skill until mastery. A second questionnaire was completed afterward as a means of self-monitoring alongside questions that are not directly targeting self-advocacy components as a means of experimental control. The process occurred until the interventionists assessed all four components.