Date of Award

Spring 2016

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Jan Nisbet

Second Advisor

Suzanne Graham

Third Advisor

Bruce Mallory


Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have typically experienced poor outcomes as they have transitioned from school to adult life. Quality school-­‐based transition planning has been found to improve outcomes for youth with disabilities in general. This mixed-­‐methods study was designed to examine the effects of a family-­‐ centered transition planning project on the transition Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) of youth with ASD. Thirty-­‐nine youth with ASD and their families were randomly assigned to either an intervention group or control group. Pre-­‐ and post-­‐intervention IEPs were collected for each youth. The IEPs were analyzed to determine differences in changes to the quality of both the overall transition IEPs and the integrated employment goals. The IEPs were also compared in an effort to determine if the change in number of IEPs with goals related to integrated employment, postsecondary education, community living and adults services were significantly different for the two groups. To further explore the contextual factors that may have contributed to differences in the effect of the intervention on IEPs, semi-­‐structured interviews were conducted with the parents of four youth from the intervention group, including two who’s transition IEPs improved and two who’s transition IEPs did not. Both participation in the family-­‐centered intervention and occupational status predicted improvements in the overall quality of IEPs but not in the integrated employment domain. The intervention was not found to be differentially effective for youth with varying levels of parent occupational status, self-­‐determination, or adaptive behavior. Adult services was the only domain in which the intervention group had IEPs that improved significantly more than the control group. Although the intervention had a positive effect on the overall quality of transition IEPs, there were a number of youth in the intervention group with IEPs that did not improve or that improved only minimally. The interviews revealed a number possible contextual factors related to the families’ experiences with the overall transition process that may have contributed to the differential effectiveness of the intervention. They included the quality of the school/family relationship, the quality of school-­‐based transition services, the flexibility and responsiveness of the school, families’ perceptions about their ability to affect change, and student membership in the school community. The limitations of this research were identified as well as recommendations for future research.