A Comprehensive Literature Review of Evidence-based Interventions in Science for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are increasingly included in general education and are expected to access core content, including science. Development of science content knowledge, scientific literacy, and scientific thinking are areas emphasized in legislation as well as the National Science Education Standards (NSES) as critical for all students. However, participation in science inquiry and discourse is often challenging for students with ASD given their difficulties with communication. Moreover, evidence on teaching academic content, such as science, to students with disabilities is limited. This comprehensive literature review synthesized ten studies of science intervention strategies for students with ASD. Findings suggest that students struggle with obtaining and retaining the background knowledge and strenuous vocabulary necessary to be successful with science content. Though studies related to instructional interventions in science for students with ASD are limited, these students can benefit from direct instruction through the implementation of supplementary materials such as e-texts, graphic organizers, and scripted lessons. Although there is not much research that supports inquiry-based practices, these interventions engage and assist students in the science curriculum by providing hands-on explorations with the material. Evidence-based practices for interventions in science for students with ASD have focused on direct instruction and inquiry-based practices. Direct instruction elicits explicit strategies in delivering science content concretely and directly. Many direct instruction approaches deal with the incorporation of visual supports and supplementary material to guide in student retention and access of complex ideas and terminology. Through direct instruction, the teacher facilitates and leads instruction to benefit the acquisition of science background knowledge. Contrastingly, inquiry-based practices encourage independent learning and hands-on explorations. While science is frequently inquiry-based in the general education setting, the communication challenges for students with ASD may contribute to difficulties with interactions and collaborations among peers within an inquiry lesson. Future implications include the need for additional, empirically-supported interventions in science for students with ASD and the need to target more inquiry-based science interventions for this population.