Publication Date

2013-01-14

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2013-01-14

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2012-10-17

First Committee Member

Michael Alessandri

Second Committee Member

Maria M. Llabre

Third Committee Member

Saneya Tawfik

Fourth Committee Member

Heather Henderson

Fifth Committee Member

Jason Jent

Abstract

The recent economic downturn and political climate within the federal government has threatened special education resources for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The literature suggests that one consequence may be teacher burnout; a syndrome shown to have detrimental effects on the educational outcomes of students. The aims of this study were to investigate burnout in three groups (i.e., TEACCH, LEAP, and HQSEP) of high fidelity preschool teachers, its associations with teacher commitment to philosophy, and the potential effects on the social and communicative functioning in preschoolers with ASD. A sample of 75 teachers and 198 students were investigated within a multilevel structural equation framework. Results did not support a direct relationship between teachers’ commitment at the beginning of the year and student outcomes at the end, nor was there a relationship between burnout at mid-year and outcomes. None of the mediational relationships hypothesized were supported either. Results did, however, suggest associations between teachers’ level of experience and burnout as well as teachers’ levels of burnout at the beginning of the school year and their levels of commitment at the end of the year. Additionally, results revealed several interesting findings regarding teacher and student demographic variables, including their associations with language and social functioning outcomes at the end of the year. Implications for special education, school districts, and model developers are discussed.

Keywords

autism spectrum disorders; teacher commitment; teacher burnout; preschool outcomes; multilevel structural equation modeling

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