School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Billie Jean Holubz


Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dentistry, Preparedness, Dentists, Dental Hygienists, Sensory


Education | Educational Leadership | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental, phenomenological study was to explore the preparedness of dentists and dental hygienists to manage the behaviors of patients with ASD during their dental treatments. The research focused on 12 participants who were novice or experienced dentists or dental hygienists, representatives of three states, and chosen from snowball and criterion sampling. The study was grounded in the adult experiential learning theory and the disability model. Data collection included long interviews face-to-face or via phone, open-ended-online surveys, and document analysis. The data was analyzed through the process of Epoche, transcendental-phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, synthesis of meanings, and essences (Moustakas, 1994). Seven themes emerged in the data: varying knowledge of ASD; empathy, gratification; establishment of rapport and trust, and the influence of preparedness. One unexpected theme surfaced that was indirectly related to the research questions—caregiver involvement. The participants revealed their preparedness was influenced by their hands-on personal experiences, reflection, recall from previous patients, mentors and colleagues. Some novice dentists were provided opportunities to treat patients with ASD during their predoctoral training. The participants emphasized individualization and desensitization techniques with visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory adaptations.