Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Ann Bruhn

Committee Member

Denise M. Claiborne

Committee Member

Jonna Bobzien


Problem: As the diagnosis prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) increases, it is important for dental hygiene students to be knowledgeable and comfortable in providing care to children with ASD. However, limited clinical experiences can result in decreased confidence in the ability to interact with children diagnosed with ASD in a clinical setting. Methodology: A convenience sample of 34, second-year dental hygiene students were recruited from a 4-year entry-level Dental Hygiene program. A simulated-virtual training (SVT) module was developed as an interactive approach for educating dental hygiene students on providing care to a child patient with ASD in a clinical setting. The SVT consisted of a scenario in which the clinician “interacted” with a child with ASD who was having difficulty in the dental environment. Students completed a pre-test and post-test survey that measured their knowledge, attitudes, and perceived confidence related to providing dental hygiene services to child patients with ASD. Descriptive statistics were used to describe the study sample. The Wilcoxon Signed Rank test was used to determine whether statistically significant differences existed between the key variables (i.e., knowledge, attitudes, and confidence) before and after receiving the SVT module; alpha was set at 0.05. The university’s Institutional Review Board approved this study (##20- 139).

Results: An overall response rate of 97% was obtained for both surveys (n=33). Prior to receiving the SVT module, all dental hygiene students reported no clinical experience with providing care to children with ASD. There was a statistically significant difference observed between the pre and post-test surveys for the following: dental hygiene students’ self-reported confidence to provide care to patients with ASD upon graduation (3.42 ± 0.94 vs. 3.97 ± 0.73), the assessment of the unique needs of children with ASD (3.33 ± 0.85 vs. 4.15 ± 0.51), and an understanding of the dental needs for children with ASD (3.52 ± 0.91 vs. 4.06 ± 0.66), P


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