Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Neil, Nicole

2nd Supervisor

Lee, Gabrielle


Students with intellectual disabilities (ID) and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) often experience barriers to accessing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction in the general classroom. The current research guiding equitable STEM education for this population lacks scope, primarily targeting vocabulary or content knowledge instead of the cross-curricular application of science practice skills in STEM. Using single-case research designs, the current paper examined the efficacy of an intervention package used to teach science practices in STEM education to students with ID and NDD. A multiple probe across participant design revealed that the intervention package was effective in teaching two students with NDD science practice skills. Further, a single case study comprised of a treatment and baseline phase showed positive preliminary evidence in using the intervention package for a student with ID although more high-quality research is needed. The results of these studies inform practice implications and future research directions.

Summary for Lay Audience

The importance of promoting students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) literacy has been at the forefront of educational and political interest across North America. Yet, most educational programs and instructional approaches related to STEM learning are designed for neurotypical students. Traditional methods of STEM education often present barriers to the general curriculum for diverse learners, including students with intellectual disabilities (ID) and students with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD). Students with ID and NDD often require differentiated instruction and support to access STEM learning alongside their peers; however, research guiding equitable access to STEM education for this population is lacking. Most of the current literature focuses on teaching science vocabulary or content knowledge instead of science practice skills (e.g., asking questions, analyzing findings, interpreting results) in the context of STEM as an interdisciplinary subject. As a result, traditional STEM instruction is often beyond reach for students with ID and NDD. The current paper presents two studies using single-case research designs to investigate the efficacy of an intervention package on the science practices of students in grades three to four with ID and NDD. It was found that two students with NDD acquired science practices after receiving the intervention package, indicating it was effective at teaching target skills. Further, positive preliminary results revealed that one student with ID learned science practice skills when introduced to the intervention package although additional high-quality research is needed. Social validity data from both studies revealed that the use of the intervention package in teaching science practices was considered socially important to participants and caregivers. The findings suggest that the intervention package has the potential to eliminate barriers to STEM education for students with ID and NDD. Future research directions and practice implications related to research supporting a range of students in STEM education are discussed.