Date of Award

Spring 5-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen A. Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Lois Favre, EdD

Third Advisor

Barry Morgenstern, PhD


Developing successful educational opportunities for students with autism has long been a challenge for educators. Although medical research is making great strides in the treatment and etiology of autism, as more and more students with autism are learning alongside their peers in the general education classroom the struggle to find effective teaching methods increases. This challenge may well be due to the fact that students with autism have unusual intellectual and academic skills profiles making it difficult for teachers to accurately assess students and align curriculum. Educators must develop proficiency in carefully evaluating profiles of ability for children with autism as their unique strengths and weaknesses may not always be supported within the general education classroom. Once teachers have a rich understanding of how their students learn best, instructional plans can be developed which allow for their unique preferences.

All learners have a preferred learning style. Educators must become more proficient in assessing learning styles as they strive to differentiate instruction based on their students’ needs. This paradigm neither classifies learners based on ability nor disabilities but, rather, on their individual preferences and therefore bodes well for students with unique skill sets such as those seen in students with autism.

Based on the knowledge that individual instructional preferences exist and can be measured reliably, this study examined whether or not the presence of autism influences those preferences. A sample of 52 students whose academic performance is at an elementary level and who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) self reported their preferred learning styles using the Elementary Learning Style Assessment (ELSA). Results were analyzed and compared with ELSA scores of typical students to determine differences or similarities in the preferred learning styles of the two groups.

The data analyzed in this study revealed that students with autism have commonalities in learning-style preferences. Twenty four elements had significance at the .025 level in how they preferred to learn. Additionally, this study examined the commonalities or differences in students with autism and their typical peers. In four of the 25 learning-style elements, students with autism’s learning-style preferences differed significantly from their typical peers. Findings are presented and discussed in Chapters 4 and 5.