Improving Communication of Students With Autism Through Arts Integration: A Qualitative Study
The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among elementary-age students is becoming more prevalent in the United States. The problem is the lack of research on how to grow the verbal communication skills of students with ASD through fine arts integration. The qualitative case study investigated instructional staff members’ perceptions of the effects of fine arts integration on the verbal communication skills of students with ASD. Three data collection tools were utilized to explore instructional staff members’ perceptions of fine arts integration and implementation strategies in the classroom: a teacher questionnaire, virtual interviews, and observational checklists. Data from the study were utilized to answer two research questions regarding instructional staff members’ perceptions of verbal communication skills of students with ASD before and after fine arts integration and strategies used in the classroom to integrate fine arts into the curriculum. A situational leadership style, theory of mind, and the stage theory of cognitive development were the study’s theoretical framework lens. Purposeful sampling was used to select participants for the qualitative case study. Thirteen participants from a suburban district in Illinois were selected based on their willingness to express beliefs and perceptions about the verbal communication skills of students with ASD. Data analysis was completed using an open coding process and uploaded in MAXQDA for axial coding. Results of the study uncovered (a) staff believed the integration of fine arts positively impacts communication, (b) staff utilized music more than art to elicit communication from students, and (c) effects of fine arts integration linger.