Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Jeannine Dingus-Eason


With an increase in students being classified as on the Autism Spectrum, the responsibilities of principals have also increased. The rise in the number of students having an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has presented behavioral and academic challenges for public school principals. Research has demonstrated that principals, who focus on instructional issues, who are knowledgeable about special education laws and ASD, can produce enhanced student outcomes. Using a grounded theory design, the present study examined how principals develop their knowledge of students with autism. Study participants were 11 elementary principals who directly supervised ASD classrooms. Data was gathered using individual interviews, a demographic form and a written case analysis. Analysis of the data revealed three major themes that described the study participants’ knowledge and experience: Principals’ Roles as Leaders of ASD Students, Quest for More Formalized Knowledge, and Linking Knowledge and Experience with Action. The findings pointed to the varied knowledge, experiences and preparedness of individuals in their leadership roles. The results also point to the importance of principals being instructionally competent and attending professional development to increase their knowledge and understanding of ASD.

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