Koehler-Hak, Kathrine

Committee Member

Hutchinson, Susan R.

Committee Member

Peterson, Eric

Committee Member

Hess, Robyn S.


Applied Psychology & Counselor Education


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





235 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


This study investigated the relationships between school psychologist characteristics and perceived capability to identify autism. A review of literature has suggested autism is not being diagnosed as early as recommended (Wiggins, Baio, & Rice, 2006), resulting in later intervention and less favorable prognoses. In fact, many children are not evaluated before attending school and school psychologists are often the first professionals to evaluate and provide an autism diagnosis or identification (Wiggins et al., 2006). Participants included 246 school psychologists who reported their degree level, years of experience, work setting, primary population they serve, amount of autism specific training received, clinician or research reliable certification on the ADOS (Lord, Rutter, DiLavore, & Risi, 1999), research reliability on the ADI-R (Rutter, Le Couteur, & Lord, 2003), number of autism diagnoses made per year, and amount of time spent on an autism diagnostic team. School psychologist characteristics were compared with autism knowledge, perceptions of autism diagnostic skills and experience, likelihood to consult with others, and need for training. Results revealed that ADOS clinician reliability was a significant predictor of autism knowledge. Number of diagnoses made per year, years of experience, and specific autism training were significant predictors of perceived skills and experience. Additionally, higher years of experience significantly predicted lower perceived need for training. Autism knowledge was found to be positively correlated with perceived skills and experience and negatively correlated with perceived need for training. Members of autism diagnostic teams were found to demonstrate higher autism knowledge scores. Lastly, 86.6% of participants reported themselves to be skilled versus unskilled and only slightly more than half reported that they needed additional training inthe area of autism diagnosis. Implications in terms of school psychologist professional development training and service delivery are discussed. Specifically, those individuals who reported higher levels of knowledge and skills also served on autism teams suggesting that these specialized teams may be an important model for school-based services to students who are suspected of autism spectrum disorders. Lastly, limitations to the current study and implications for future research are discussed.

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