The Impact of an Independence Curriculum on Self-Determination and Function in Middle School Autistic Students

Dora D. Onwumere, Yamaris M. Cruz, Lauren I. Harris, Katherine A. Malfucci, Steven Seidman, Cynthia Boone, Kristie Patten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing number of autistic students enter the school system, many with the capabilities of doing grade-level work. For these students, there seems to be a lack of focus on executive functioning, self-regulation, daily living skills (DLS), and self-determination. The Independence Curriculum (IC) is a set of units addressing identified areas of challenges and supports autistic students. The study aimed to examine the effectiveness of the IC intervention with autistic middle school students on the autism spectrum (ASD). A convenience sample of thirteen 5th-grade participants diagnosed with ASD (n = 13) in an inclusive public school program was screened using a Middle School Checklist for eligibility for the IC to be used in middle school one time a week. Outcomes measures included the AIR Self-Determination Scale (AIR-S), Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS), and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales-II (VABS-2)-Daily Living Skills Domain. The results of this study demonstrate a significant improvement in student reported self-determination on the AIR-S and 70% goal attainment in executive functioning and self-regulation. The IC can be an effective curriculum for increasing functional independence while facilitating self-determination in middle school autistic students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-117
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, and Early Intervention
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021


  • Activities of Daily Living
  • autism
  • curriculum
  • effective Instruction
  • independent Living

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Education
  • Occupational Therapy


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