Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Psychology (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Lauren Moskowitz

Second Advisor

Marlene Sotelo-Dynega

Third Advisor

Mark Terjesen


Although most children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are not diagnosed until after four years of age, they can and should be identified much earlier. Given that preschool teachers repeatedly observe children in social contexts, they are in a unique position to aide in the early identification of ASD, which can prompt the initiation of intervention services that mitigate levels of disability. Few studies exist that examine preschool teachers’ knowledge of ASD in the United States and no study to date has researched the relationship between knowledge and accuracy of symptom identification in this population. The current study aimed to examine key demographic variables related to preschool teachers’ knowledge of ASD in the U.S., whether preschool teachers’ knowledge relates to symptom identification, if ASD mediates the relationship between key variables and accurate symptom identification, and whether ASD knowledge is associated with teachers’ likelihood of informing caregivers of identified concerns. Results demonstrated that education level, prior ASD-focused training, previous exposure to students with ASD, and special education teaching experience were significantly correlated with ASD knowledge. Further, ASD knowledge was significantly correlated with symptom identification accuracy and it significantly mediated the relationship between key variables (e.g., education level, prior training) and accurate symptom identification. Lastly, results showed that ASD knowledge was correlated with likelihood to inform caregivers of behaviors for vignettes depicting students with ASD symptomatology. These findings build upon existing literature on ASD knowledge in the preschool teacher population and have important implications for training, school psychology, and clinical practice.

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Psychology Commons