Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Special Education

First Advisor

Dr. Sean O'Shea


This research examines the scope of how autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have changed over the history of special education. From Dr. Leo Kanner’s initial study in 1943 to the present-day DSM-5, the diagnostic criteria for an accurate identification of autism in children has been extremely varied, resulting in an increased prevalence rate and confusion as to what actually constitutes ASD. A major discovery by Wing and Gould in 1979 brought to the forefront the concept of a spectrum of disorders within the autism category. Leading to an over-diagnosis of children requiring related services and supports in schools and at home, also examined is the response to the American Psychological Association (APA) removal of the spectrum in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition (DSM-5) manual.

This paper explores the field of autism study including the assessments used to determine a diagnosis, suggestions for evidence-based interventions and strategies with proven success, and how the changes in the DSM-5 have impacted the community of children and families with autism. An explanation for meeting the needs of the whole child, not just their label or stigmatized disability category under IDEA, is also investigated to assist teachers in making accurate and appropriate accommodations for children with autism spectrum disorders in their classrooms.