Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Third Advisor

Dr. Ruth Ervin

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Steven Ragotzy


Over the past two decades, research has focused on identifying successful instructional methods and appropriate programming for young children with autism. Much of this early research focused on the effectiveness of intensive one-to-one behavioral programs. Support for intensive one-to-one instruction for children with autism began a long-term debate over the effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness of one-to-one instructional strategies for young children with autism. In response, researchers and educators began considering and studying small group instruction, a less restrictive alternative to intensive one-to-one instruction. While support is mounting for the use of small group instructional strategies, there continues to be limited evaluation of the comparative effectiveness between one-to-one instruction and small group instruction. In addition, there is a need to assess the effectiveness of the instructional components that these arrangements utilize. The present study was designed to compare one-to-one instruction with small group instruction for young children with autism. First, this study reviews and compares the two instructional strategies. Second, this study focuses on identifying effective instructional strategies that maximize learning opportunities in both individual and small group instruction. Third, this study focuses on comparing the effectiveness of the specific instructional components used in small group and one-to-one instruction. While the effectiveness and efficiency o f one-to-one and small group instruction are compared, the study also analyzes: (a) behavior management including effects on acquisition, teacher behavior, and instructional efficiency; (b) generalization of skills learned during instruction; and (c) the effects of observational learning during group instruction. Results indicate that when effective instructional strategies are maximized, small group instruction is more efficient and as/more effective than one-to-one instruction. While small group instruction offers fewer direct learning opportunities, results indicate faster rates of acquisition during group instruction than one-to-one instruction. Results also indicate group instruction to be more efficient in terms of time and resources than one-to-one instruction. While small group instruction is as/more effective and more efficient than one-to-one instruction, it may be more demanding for teachers to manage and implement. Future research directions include assessing teacher management requirements more thoroughly.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access