Capstone/Dissertation Title

Exploring early childhood special education teachers descriptions of learners with autism spectrum disorder, with emotional behavioral disorder, with developmental cognitive delay, and with prenatal chemical exposure





Degree Name



This qualitative study investigated Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) teachers' perceptions of learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD), Developmental Cognitive Delay (DCD), and prenatal chemical exposure. Participants were six ECSE teachers teaching in suburban school districts in the Midwest. Methods were semi-structured interviews, analyzed using Grounded Theory. As a comparison, an elite interview with an expert in the field was used to compare and contrast with the grounded theory data. Findings indicate respondents in this study reported less experience with students with EBS, DCD, and prenatal chemical exposure than for students with ASD. A further finding indicated a significant difference in how respondents described learners with ASD compared to the other three disability categories. Respondents in this study described students with ASD in greater quantity and richness than students in the other three disability categories. This study identifies the need the educators must address identification and instructional strategies for students with EBS, DCD, and prenatal chemical exposure through focused and specifically designed staff development opportunities. The impact of this study on the researcher personally and professionally is discussed in addition to the limitations of the study and the need for further research.

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