Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Virginia Salzer, PhD

Second Advisor

Jessica Glass Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D

Third Advisor

Barry Barbarasch, EdD


This study explored teachers and school staff’s perceptions of the impact of participation in a food-based social skills intervention for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and behavioral challenges. 1st-5th grade students who received special education and related services and were placed in self-contained programs in a suburban school district in New Jersey were eligible to participate in the intervention. The intervention consisted of a food-based social skills intervention in which students prepared food ordered by staff members. The students’ job duties included taking orders over the phone and in person, preparing requested food items, taking payments and counting change, and providing customer service. Following the intervention, twenty teachers and staff members completed a survey regarding their perceptions of the program’s success. Nine teachers directly involved in the intervention answered four open-ended questions regarding their perceptions of the students’ improvements in specific areas. Results indicated that teachers and staff members saw an increase in social skills, life skills, executive skills, academic skills, teamwork, and social awareness. The findings of this study indicate that students with significant needs who are provided direct intervention are able to show an increase in skills detrimental to their success academically and in their future careers.