Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 88 children have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is a pervasive disorder affecting multiple developmental outcomes (e.g., behavior, communication, cognitive skills). The heterogeneity of abilities poses a significant challenge for schools in determining how best to meet the needs of each child within the least restrictive environment. The research to date suggests that despite some mitigation in the severity of some symptoms associated with ASD as children grow older, significant limitations persist that can affect a range of outcomes.

The focus of this Center is a program of research to develop and evaluate a comprehensive, school-based intervention for secondary students with ASD. The purpose of the intervention is to improve cognitive, communicative, academic, social, behavioral, functional, or transition outcomes of secondary students with ASD. The Center's primary research will involve (1) developing a comprehensive school- and community-based treatment model for high school students with ASD, and (2) evaluating the efficacy of the intervention.

Across five years, researchers from six universities will collaborate with schools, businesses, families, and adolescents on the autism spectrum to build and study a high school program that supports optimal outcomes for students in high school and after graduation.

For more information, visit the CSESA Website


Erik Carter, Ph.D., (615) 322-8150

See Also...

Printable Materials and Resources

  • Early Findings From The Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
    A Research Report from Erik Carter, Ph.D., Professor of Special Education, on behalf of The Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA). The CSESA is a five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to develop a comprehensive program to meet the needs of high school students on the autism spectrum ( Researchers from six universities—including Vanderbilt—are collaborating with schools, families, community members, and adolescents with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to develop an effective, comprehensive intervention for high schools focused on the following areas: (a) social competence; (b) transition and families; (c) academics; (d) personal responsibility, independence, and self-management; and (e) professional development.