Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 38, Issue 8, pp 1509–1517 | Cite as

A National Sample of Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Special Education Services and Parent Satisfaction

  • Amy Bitterman
  • Tamara C. Daley
  • Sunil Misra
  • Elaine Carlson
  • Joy Markowitz
Original Paper


The Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study (PEELS) examines the preschool and early elementary school experiences of a nationally representative sample of 3,104 children ages 3–5 with disabilities from 2004 through 2009. This paper describes the special education and related services received by a subsample of 186 preschoolers with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in 2003–2004 and parental satisfaction with those services. Past research and patterns of litigation suggest that parents of children with ASD are not wholly satisfied with the special education and related services their children receive. In the current study, the authors found many similarities between children with ASD and children with other disabilities in the type of services received under IDEA and in parent satisfaction with these services. Still, some significant differences emerged in the number of services received, the amount of time children with ASD spent in special education settings, and parent satisfaction with the amount of time children spent with typically developing peers. Implications about the importance of parent satisfaction and social validity measures are discussed.


Autism ASD IDEA Preschoolers Services Parent satisfaction 



This research was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Special Education Research, under contract number ED-04-CO-0059. The authors would like to recognize the leadership and support of three PEELS project officers: Dr. Lisa Holden-Pitt, Dr. Patricia Gonzalez, and Dr. Celia Rosenquist, all of whom made invaluable contributions to the project.


  1. Bailey, D. B., Simeonsson, R. J., Buysse, V., & Smith, T. (1993). Reliability of an index of child characteristics. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 35(9), 806–815.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of Royal Statistical Society, Series B, 57, 289–300.Google Scholar
  3. Bryson, S. E., Rogers, S. J., & Fombonne, E. (2003). Autism spectrum disorders: Early detection, intervention, education and psychopharmacological management. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48(8), 506–516.Google Scholar
  4. Callahan, K., Henson, R. K., & Cowan, A. K. (in press). Social validation of evidence-based practices in autism by parents, teachers and administrators. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.Google Scholar
  5. Chambers, J. G., Shkolnik, J., & Pérez, M. (2003). Total expenditures for students with disabilities, 1999–2000: Spending variation by disability. Palo Alto, CA: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from
  6. Daley, T. C., Simeonsson, R. J., & Carlson, E. (in press). Constructing a measure of severity of disability in a national sample of preschoolers with disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation.Google Scholar
  7. Etscheidt, S. (2003). An analysis of legal hearings and cases related to individualized education programs for children with autism. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 28(2), 51–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Goldstein, H., Kaczmarek, L., Pennington, R., & Shafer, K. (1992). Peer-mediated intervention: Attending to, commenting on, and acknowledging the behavior of preschoolers with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25(2), 289–305.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hume, K., Bellini, S., & Pratt, C. (2005). The usage and perceived outcomes of early intervention and early childhood programs for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 25(4), 195–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hurth, J., Shaw, E., Izeman, S., Whaley, K., & Rogers, S. (1999). Areas of agreement about effective practices serving young children with autism spectrum disorders. Infants and Young Children, 12, 17–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kazdin, A. (1977). Assessing the clinical or applied importance of behavior change through social validation. Behavior Modification, 1, 427–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kasari, C., Freeman, S. F., Bauminger, N., & Alkin, M. C. (1999). Parental perspectives on inclusion: Effects of autism and Down syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 29, 297–305.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kohler, F. W. (1999). Examining the services received by young children with autism and their families: A survey of parent responses. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 14(3), 150–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lake, J. F., & Billingsley, B. S. (2000). An analysis of factors that contribute to parent-school conflict in special education. Remedial and Special Education, 21(4), 240–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Laushey, K. M., & Heflin, L. J. (2000). Enhancing social skills of kindergarten children with autism through the training of multiple peers as tutors. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(3), 183–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Laws, G., & Millward, L. (2001). Predicting parents’ satisfaction with the education of their child with Down’s syndrome. Educational Research, 43(2), 209–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Liptak, G. S., Stuart, T., & Auinger, P. (2006). Health care utilization and expenditures for children with autism: Data from U.S. National Samples. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(7), 871–879.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liptak, G. S., Orlando, M., Yingling, J. T., Theurer-Kaufman, K. L., Malay, D. P., Tompkins, L. A., et al. (2006). Satisfaction with primary health care received by families of children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Pediatric Health, 20(4), 245–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lindsay, G. (2007). Educational psychology and the effectiveness of inclusive education/mainstreaming. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 1–24.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mandell, D. S., Walrath, C. M., Manteuffel, B., Sgro, G., & Pinto-Martin, J. (2005). Characteristics of children with autistic spectrum disorders served in comprehensive community-based mental health settings. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(3), 313–321.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mandlawitz, M. R. (2002). The impact of the legal system on educational programming for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(5), 495–508.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Markowitz, J., Carlson, E., Frey, W., Riley, J., Shimshak, A., Heinzen, H., et al. (2006). Preschoolers with disabilities: Characteristics, services, and results, Wave I overview report from the Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study (PEELS). Rockville, MD: Westat.Google Scholar
  23. Miller, L. J., Strain, P. S., McKinley, J., Heckathorn, K., & Miller, S. (1993). Preschool placement decisions: Are they predictors of future placement? Pittsburgh, PA: Research Institute on Preschool Mainstreaming.Google Scholar
  24. Moreno, F. J., Aguilera, A., & Saldaña. D. (in press). Do parents prefer special schools for their children with autism? Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities. Google Scholar
  25. National Research Council. (2001). Educating children with autism. In C. Lord & J. P. McGee (Eds.), Committee on educational interventions for children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.Google Scholar
  26. Office of Special Education Programs. (2003). Child count data, Table AA2: Number served (ages 3–5), by disability and state. Retrieved from
  27. Office of Special Education Programs. (2005). Child count data, Table 1–2: Children ages 3 through 5 served under IDEA, Part B, by disability category and state: Fall 2005. Retrieved from
  28. Prendeville, J. A., Prelock, P. A., & Unwin, G. (2006). Peer play interventions to support the social competence of children with autism spectrum disorders. Seminars in Speech and Language, 27(1), 32–46.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Runco, M. A., & Schreibman, L. (1983). Children’s judgments of autism and social validation of behavior therapy efficacy. Behavior Therapy, 19(4), 565–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schreibman, L., Koegel, R. L., Mills, J. I., & Burke, J. C. (1981). Social validation of behavior therapy with autistic children. Behavior Therapy, 12, 610–624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Siklos, S., & Kerns, K. A. (2006). Assessing need for social support in parents of children with autism and Down syndrome. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36(7), 921–923.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (2004). Readiness: School, family and community connections. Austin, TX: Author.Google Scholar
  33. Spann, S. J., Kohler, F. W., & Soenksen, D. (2003). Examining parents’ involvement in and perceptions of special education services: An interview with families in a parent support group. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18(4), 228–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Storey, K. (1992). Reliability and validity issues in social validation research involving persons with developmental disabilities. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 4(1), 75–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Westat (2002). WesVar version 4.2. Rockville, MD: Author.Google Scholar
  36. Yell, M. L., Katsiyannis, A., Drasgow, E., & Herbst, M. (2003). Developing legally correct and educationally appropriate programs for students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18(3), 182–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zirkel, P. A. (2002). The autism case law: Administrative and judicial rulings. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 17(2), 84–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy Bitterman
    • 1
  • Tamara C. Daley
    • 1
  • Sunil Misra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Elaine Carlson
    • 1
  • Joy Markowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.WestatRockvilleUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations