Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)


Education Specialties

First Advisor

Brett E Blake

Second Advisor

Maria P Mello


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to discover Direct Support Professionals’ (DSPs) perceptions of a staff development session for creating a literacy-based social skills strategy known as social stories or story-based instruction. The participants in this study were six DSPs employed by a non-profit agency in the Mid-Hudson Region of New York State which provides community-based residential services to children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Three data collection methods were used in this study: a questionnaire, written reflections, and two in-depth interviews. This study was guided by four research questions exploring the perceived self-efficacy of DSPs, their perceptions of how the staff development session influenced their skills as teaching professionals, and the impact of the social story strategy on the adult learners they support. Interview data were collected and analyzed using the steps from Giorgi’s (1997) descriptive phenomenological method. The findings indicated a consensus among participants that the literacy-based social skill strategy was highly beneficial for teaching COVID-19 mitigation skills. Findings also indicated that DSPs perceived that the usefulness of the literacy-based social skill strategy would be dependent on a person centered instructional approach. Additional findings indicated that participants perceived their lack of professional development opportunities as a direct obstacle to their growth as teaching professionals which they further believed could influence the quality of life of the individuals they support. The implications of this study indicate that DSPs would benefit greatly from staff development that employs evidenced based strategies with a person centered approach in a collaborative learning environment.