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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2019 Mar;87(3):270-281. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000368. Epub 2018 Dec 20.

The effect of implementation climate on program fidelity and student outcomes in autism support classrooms.

Author information

Department of Psychology.
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
Department of Psychiatry.
Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences.



An organization's implementation climate, or the extent to which use of an intervention is expected, supported, and rewarded by colleagues and supervisors, has been identified as critical to successful intervention implementation and outcomes. The effect of implementation climate has not been well studied in special education settings. The present study examines the association between teachers' perceptions of implementation climate, teacher fidelity to a school-based program for students with autism, and student outcomes (measured as changes in IQ) over time.


Participants included 158 students from 45 classrooms and their teachers. Teachers provided a measure of implementation climate at the beginning of the academic year; program fidelity was measured monthly throughout the year. The main and interaction effects of perceived implementation climate and fidelity on student outcomes were examined using longitudinal nested linear models with random effects for classroom and student, controlling for important covariates.


On average, IQ scores improved 2.2 points (SD = 8.7). There were no main effects of perceived implementation climate or fidelity on student outcomes; however, the interaction between perceived implementation climate and fidelity was associated with student outcomes (p < .05, d = 0.54). Among classrooms with a strong perceived implementation climate, higher fidelity was associated with better student outcomes.


While preliminary and requiring replication, these findings suggest that perceived implementation climate and program fidelity each may be important but not sufficient for optimizing outcomes for students with autism. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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