12:41pm Friday 06 December 2019

MSU researchers study education services for Michigan children with autism

A significant proportion of special education teachers and autism consultants also have low expectations that students with ASD can meet general education achievement standards, according to preliminary findings from a new Michigan State University study.

The ASD-Michigan Project is the first statewide investigation of educational services and expectations for more than 11,000 students with ASD in Michigan’s schools. The early results will be presented at an April 3 conference at MSU.

The project, funded by Ronald and Eileen Weiser, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Skillman Foundation, is expected to influence critical policy decisions as Michigan responds to the national increase in diagnosing autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in every 110 children in the United States has an ASD.

“We are trying to determine the kind and quality of services ASD students are receiving in Michigan because it varies significantly across districts,” said Sharif Shakrani, education professor at MSU. “This information is vital for any future action, and we hope it will help inform the national autism strategy.”

Shakrani and co-investigators Summer Ferreri and Sara Bolt will present early results during the Saturday conference on ASD research for educators, parents, policymakers and researchers.

The event, coordinated as part of the ASD-Michigan project, features a keynote address from University of Michigan autism expert Catherine Lord. Presentation topics also cover, in part, neuroimaging, improving imitation skills and behavior interventions in community settings. April is Autism Awareness Month.

“We’re trying to bring all the different facets of autism research together in an effort to understand and approach treatment options for ASDs at every angle,” said Ferreri, an assistant professor of special education who specializes in studying ASD.

The confidential nature of special education makes it difficult to gather information for individual students with ASD. With data collection still under way, the ASD-Michigan team has survey responses from more than 130 special education teachers and autism consultants who provided answers with particular students in mind.

The team is also collecting data from parents of children with ASD and from postsecondary education programs that prepare special education teachers. A full report is expected this summer. Visit http://autism.educ.msu.edu for more information.


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.


Contact: Nicole Geary, Education, Office: (517) 355-1826, ngeary@msu.edu

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