Date Awarded

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Tracy L Cross

Committee Member

Jennifer R. Cross

Committee Member

Claire E. Hughes

Committee Member

Tracy L. Cross


Meeting the needs of the gifted student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) requires addressing both conditions. Education professionals are in a unique position to begin this process by referring the student to school specialists for evaluation. However, diagnostic confusion surrounding autism, misconceptions about special education, varying conceptions of giftedness, and overlapping behaviors of giftedness and ASD can inhibit education professionals’ ability to recognize unique behaviors of gifted students with ASD, and make appropriate referrals, placing the student at academic risk. Autism and giftedness have been studied separately in the fields of education and psychology for more than half a century. Although the study of giftedness with ASD has begun to increase in recent years, no empirical study to date has focused on education professionals who successfully referred this student population for specialized services. The present mixed methods study examined perceptions and experiences of education professionals who successfully referred gifted students with ASD for specialized services. Survey research probed training, experience, and credentials, as well as perceptions about twice exceptionality. Semi-structured interviews investigated observed behaviors prompting their student’s referral for specialized services, experiences with their gifted students with ASD, and evidence they found influential in identifying their student as gifted. These elements combined to provide not only a conceptualization of the gifted student with ASD, but a conception of the education professional who worked with them. The results of this study will inform research, pre-service coursework, and professional development in meeting the needs of this special population of gifted student.



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