A program evaluation of an academic and behavioral program created for gifted students with autism



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A relatively recent phenomenon of interest within the field of twice-exceptionality involves gifted children with autism. A literature search reveals a lack of published works about these individuals and empirical studies exploring the distinctive special educational needs of these children remain scarce (Nicpon et al., 2011; Rubenstein et al., 2013; Wu et al., 2019). In 2019, in an effort to meet the needs of this unique population, a school district in North Texas developed and implemented the Academic and Behavioral Learning (ABLE) program. The aim of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of the elementary ABLE program as perceived by parent and school staff participants. Additionally, because no formal program logic model existed for the ABLE program, a second purpose of this study was to gain a more thorough understanding of the visions, processes, and outcomes of the ABLE program in order to create a program logic model that could be used to guide future evaluations and improvements. This program evaluation was framed using Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of child development (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994) and Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory of development (Vygotsky, 1978). This study employed the combined frameworks of pragmatic constructivism and the social model of disability (Oliver, 1983) to collect and analyze data. Data were collected via interviews and documentation reviews. Data analysis procedures utilized a program logic framework model and thematic analysis, with an accompanying case vignette, which yielded six prominent themes: (a) increased self-awareness and empowerment; (b) issues related to ensuring program fidelity; (c) scaffolding toward independence; (d) physical environment creates a sense of safety; (e) additional systemic factors; and (f) recommendations for future implementation. A complete logic model for the ABLE program is also proposed. This study has implications for the provision of special education programming for elementary-age gifted students with autism who demonstrate significant maladaptive behaviors due to deficits in the areas of social skills and executive functioning.



Education, Special, Education, Educational Psychology