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Autism Program Environment Rating Scale - Preschool/Elementary (APERS-PE

User's Guide
Table of

How well does your educational program support learning, development, and participation for children on the autism spectrum? Find out with the APERS-PE, an in-depth assessment that evaluates the quality of educational programs for preschool and elementary students with autism. Filling the need for a reliable tool focused specifically on the unique learning needs of autistic children, the APERS-PE draws on observations, interviews, and reviews of student records to yield ratings of 10 key domains that make up overall program quality. Program leaders will use this invaluable snapshot to document their program’s strengths and make a data-informed plan to address areas for improvement.


  • A tool you can trust. Valid and reliable, the APERS-PE was developed by top researchers in autism and autism program quality.
  • No other tool like it. The APERS-PE is the only assessment of program quality for this student population.
  • Measures what matters. The APERS-PE assesses program features that are most likely to influence the learning and behavior of autistic students.
  • Clear and actionable results. Detailed scores and easy-to-read graphics of results help you pinpoint your program’s strengths and take action to resolve challenges.
  • Informs professional development. The assessment helps your program identify specific areas for professional growth and determine where teachers might need more training and support.
  • Provides proof of quality. APERS-PE data is a powerful way to demonstrate the quality of your program to decision makers and the families of your students.
  • Great for all classroom types. The APERS-PE is equally useful for inclusive classrooms, self-contained classrooms for children with autism, and programs that combine elements of both.


The APERS-PE contains 62 assessment items organized in 10 domains critical to program quality:

  • Learning Environments
  • Positive Learning Climate
  • Assessment and IEP Development
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Communication
  • Social Competence
  • Personal Independence and Competence
  • Interfering Behavior
  • Family Involvement
  • Teaming

To complete the assessment, a trained APERS rater—such as an autism specialist or a school psychologist—visits the program. The rater reviews student records for two to three focal students with autism, interviews school personnel and parents of the focal students, and observes the students during their school day, taking notes throughout the process. Then the rater completes an electronic scoring tool, which automatically generates item scores, overall program scores, scores for each domain (and dimensions within the domains), and graphs that provide a visual snapshot of the program. The rater writes up a report and shares results with school personnel for use in quality improvement.

Also included is the optional APERS-PE Self-Assessment, a shorter, faster assessment used by teachers and other service providers to guide them in program improvement plans. It can also be used as part of performance reviews and as a tool for communicating with families about program features.

Training recommended: Training is strongly recommended for all APERS-PE raters. APERS-PE training is provided through Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


This title has additional materials available on the Brookes Download Hub:

  • 6 Interview protocols, ranging from 4-8 pages each (provided as fillable PDF forms)
  • An excel electronic scoring tool (that has cost us some money to update)
  • Self-Assessment Protocol (8 pages, provided as a fillable PDF form)
  • Self-Assessment Calculator (excel spreadsheet)

About the Downloads

About the Authors



Chapter 1: Introduction to the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale

  • The APERS and Program Quality
  • APERS-PE at a Glance
  • Context for the APERS: Assessment of Quality in Education
  • APERS Development
  • APERS 2023
  • Summary

Chapter 2: Getting Started: APERS Training and Administration

  • Step 1: Complete APERS Training
  • Step 2: Make Initial Arrangements for the APERS
  • Step 3a: Review IEPS and Other Relevant Student Records
  • Step 3b: Conduct Observations
  • Step 3c: Complete Interviews
  • Additional Considerations for Self-Contained Special Education Classes and Inclusive Programs
  • Summary
  • Appendix 2.1 APERS-PE Record Review Guide
  • Appendix 2.2 APERS-PE Observer Guide
  • Appendix 2.3 APERS-PE Tip Sheet
  • Appendix 2.4 Sample Letter to Administrator
  • Appendix 2.5 APERS-PE Planning Guide (Preliminary Interview)
  • Appendix 2.6 Sample Letter to Parent

Chapter 3: Scoring the APERS

  • Data Used to Score the APERS-PE
  • Reviewing Data
  • Making Judgments About APERS-PE Items
  • Using the Scoring Tool
  • Item Format and Scoring
  • Scoring Description by Domains
  • Automatic Generation of Scores
  • APERS-PE Scoring Calculator
  • Summary

Chapter 4: Using APERS Information

  • National, State, and Local Leaders’ Use of APERS Information
  • Research Uses of APERS Results
  • Summary
  • Appendix Sample Report to Building-Level Leaders

Chapter 5: APERS Self-Assessment

  • Format for Items
  • Description of Program Quality Domains
  • Procedures for Completing the APERS-PE Self-Assessment Tool
  • Using the APERS-PE Self-Assessment Program Ratings
  • Summary

Chapter 6: Understanding the Empirical Foundations and Research Uses of APERS

  • Psychometric Features of the APERS
  • NPDC and the First Use of APERS in Research and Evaluation
  • Evaluating the NPDC Model When Implemented in Elementary Schools
  • Evaluating Changes in Program Quality in the Efficacy Study of the Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (CSESA)
  • Using APERS to Promote Program Quality in Sweden
  • Summary

Frequently Asked Questions



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