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Inclusive education for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in secondary mainstream schools: Teacher attitudes, experience and knowledge

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Abstract

The aim of the current study was to examine the experience, attitudes and knowledge of school staff in relation to inclusive education for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) in mainstream secondary schools. Fifty-three participants from 11 secondary schools in the north-west of England completed a survey that covered socio-demographic information and teaching experience, perceptions of inclusion within their school, experience and knowledge of ASDs, influences on integration of pupils with ASDs, ability to cope with behaviours associated with ASDs and benefits and problems associated with integration of pupils with ASD in mainstream schools. Respondents tended to indicate positive attitudes towards inclusion. Our analysis also showed that senior managers and Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators reported greater self-efficacy in teaching pupils with ASD and in coping with behaviours associated with ASD than did subject teachers. Finally, respondents reported social inclusion as both a potential benefit and challenge for pupils with ASD. The implications of these findings for future training and practice are discussed.
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Inclusive education for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in
secondary mainstream schools: teacher attitudes, experience and
knowledge
Cite as: Humphrey, N. & Symes, W. (under review). Inclusive education for pupils
with autistic spectrum disorders in secondary mainstream schools: teacher
attitudes, experience and knowledge. International Journal of Inclusive
Education.
Neil Humphrey and Wendy Symes
School of Education
University of Manchester
Oxford Road
Manchester
M13 9PL
Email: neil.humphrey@manchester.ac.uk
Tel: 0161 275 3404
Fax: 0161 275 3548
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Abstract
The aim of the current study was to examine the experience, attitudes and
knowledge of school staff in relation to inclusive education for pupils with ASDs in
secondary mainstream schools. 53 participants from 11 secondary schools in
the north-west of England completed a survey that covered socio-demographic
information and teaching experience, perceptions of inclusion within their school,
experience and knowledge of ASDs, influences on integration of pupils with
ASDs, ability to cope with behaviours associated with ASDs, and benefits and
problems associated with integration of pupils with ASD in mainstream schools.
We found more positive responses than have been reported in previous studies,
indicating that attitudes towards inclusion of this particular group of learners may
be changing over time. Our analysis also showed that senior managers and
SENCOs reported greater self-efficacy in teaching pupils with ASD and in coping
with behaviours associated with ASD than did subject teachers. Finally,
respondents reported social inclusion as both a potential benefit and challenge
for pupils with ASD. The implications of these findings for future training and
practice are discussed.
Keywords: autistic spectrum disorders; inclusive education; teacher attitudes
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Introduction
Children and young people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) experience
difficulties in communication, interaction and imagination (Wing, 2007). In line
with educational policy both in England and internationally (e.g. Department for
Education and Employment, 1997; United Nations Educational, 1994), increasing
numbers of such pupils are being educated in mainstream settings (Dybvik,
2004; Keen & Ward, 2004). However, schools have struggled to keep pace with
these developments. Indeed, Humphrey and Lewis (2008) describe this as one of
the most complex and poorly understood areas of education. Pupils with ASDs
are viewed as more difficult to effectively include than pupils with other special
educational needs (SEN) (House of Commons Education and Skills Committee,
2006) and research indicates that they are more likely to be excluded from
school than most other groups of learners (Barnard, Prior, & Potter, 2000;
Department for Education and Skills, 2006; National Autistic Society, 2003).
Teachers play a key role in the successful inclusion of pupils with ASDs (Burack,
Root, & Zigler, 1997; Emam & Farrell, 2009; McGregor & Campbell, 2001).
However, whilst all pupils may benefit academically and socially from positive
relationships with their teachers (Robertson, Chamberlain, & Kasari, 2003) those
with ASDs can present a challenge in this regard. Teachers of pupils with ASDs
report tensions when dealing with the difficulties these pupils have in social and
emotional understanding, and these tensions can determine the quality of
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teacher-pupil interactions (Emam & Farrell, 2009). The disinterest in interaction
and behavioural problems sometimes displayed by learners with ASDs can make
it less likely for teachers to report having a positive relationship with them
(Robertson, Chamberlain, & Kasari, 2003). Natof and Romanczyk (2009) warn
against generalising from what is appropriate for typically developing pupils to
those with ASDs. They argue, for example, that certain aspects of the pupil-
teacher relationship may not be relevant to this group of learners. Indeed, these
authors found that the level of teacher attention received had almost no impact
on the academic performance of pupils with ASDs.
Even if the pupil-teacher relationship does not have an impact on the academic
inclusion of pupils with ASDs, it has been found to determine the degree to which
they are socially included. Robertson, Chamberlain & Kasari (2003) found that
the more negative relationship teachers had with such pupils, the less socially
accepted they were by their peers. This is particularly worrying as the difficulties
in social interaction experienced by pupils with ASDs already put them at risk of
negative social outcomes. They are up to three times more likely to be bullied,
are less likely to receive social support and are more likely to be rejected than
their peers (Symes & Humphrey, 2010). Pupils with ASD are also more likely to
spend more of their break and lunchtimes alone, and engage less in co-operative
interaction with other children than those with other or no SEN (Humphrey &
Symes, under review).
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A way to minimise these negative social outcomes then, might be to ensure
teachers have appropriate training to successfully include pupils with ASDs
within their classrooms (McGregor & Campbell, 2001; Rose, 2001; Simpson, de
Boer-Ott, & Smith-Myles, 2003). Parents of pupils with ASD identify teacher
training as the single most enabling factor in providing for their children in the
mainstream setting (Jindal-Snape, Douglas, Topping, Kerr, & Smith, 2005).
Similarly, Jordan & Jones(1997) claim that staff training should be a key part of
this provision if schools are to meet the needs of pupils with ASD and policies
should be in place to ensure it is received (Centre for Studies on Inclusive
Education, 2002).
It is proposed that teaching pupils with ASDs may require specific approaches
that are not familiar to mainstream teachers (Leach & Duffy, 2009). However,
whilst teachers believe that learning these skills would make a positive difference
to their classroom practice (Lian et al., 2008) many currently lack the training to
adequately support such pupils (Dybvik, 2004; McGregor & Campbell, 2001;
Robertson, Chamberlain, & Kasari, 2003) and feel unable to meet their needs
(Sinzc, 2004). Indeed, teaching practices and strategies for pupils with ASDs
have been identified as a key ‘gap’ in the knowledge base for SEN provision
(Humphrey & Parkinson, 2006). Furthermore, which strategies are used can vary
with the age of the pupil, the classroom setting and the pupil being included
(Hess, Morrier, Heflin, & Ivey, 2008). Therefore it is important to provide teachers
with as many strategies as possible. Teacher training not only ensures that pupils
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are more included in lessons, it can also make teachers feel more confident in
dealing with pupils with ASD (Glashan, Mackay, & Grieve, 2004), whilst a lack of
training has been linked to heightened teacher anxiety (Sinz, 2004). Evaluation of
teacher training programmes for teachers working with pupils with ASDs have
found that training can result in increased awareness of ASDs (Leblanc,
Richardson, & Burns, 2009) alongside a significant improvement in the
classroom behaviour of pupils with ASD and reduced teacher stress (Probst &
Leppert, 2008). In terms of SEN more generally, training can also result in
teachers having a more positive attitude towards inclusion (Avramidis, Bayliss, &
Burden, 2000; Horrocks, White, & Roberts, 2008; Huang & Wheeler, 2007). This
is important as positive attitudes toward inclusion are cited as a second important
prerequiste to successful inclusion of pupils with ASDs (McGregor & Campbell,
2001). Direct experience of inclusion can also raise positive attitudes (Avramidis,
Bayliss, & Burden, 2000), particularly with pupils with ASDs (McGregor &
Campbell, 2001). However, many teachers still feel that additional support from a
teaching assistant (TA) is important (Rose, 2001), not only for the pupil with ASD,
but for their peers as well (Sincz 2004).
However, whilst teacher training and attitude towards inclusion are important, it is
also vital to consider the wider-school context. Indeed, there is a call to move
away from focusing upon pupil deficits towards a whole-school approach of
reviewing practices and learning styles (Rose, 2001). Similarly, research
stresses the importance of a whole-school approach to inclusion (Centre for
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Studies on Inclusive Education, 2002). In relation to including pupils with ASDs it
is argued that positive outcomes cannot be achieved by just a few members of
staff, rather: “Schools need to buy in wholesale to inclusion if it is to work.
Inclusion cannot rely on the interest, commitment and enthusiasm of one or two
individuals. Without a shift in the whole organisation’s attitude and approach it
will fail children with autism and Asperger syndrome” (Barnard, Prior, & Potter,
2000, p. 12). This whole-school inclusion requires all staff to have a clear and
shared understanding of the aims and expectation of inclusion within their school
(Eldara, Talmora, & Wolf-Zukermana, 2010; Huang & Wheeler, 2007), and these
must be supported by senior management (Horrocks, White, & Roberts, 2008).
The current study: a rationale
Inclusive education for pupils with ASD is one of the most complex and poorly
understood areas of education (Humphrey & Lewis, 2008). In particular, there
have been calls for further research into effective teaching strategies and
approaches for this group of learners (Humphrey & Parkinson, 2006). However,
the practice of inclusion is not simply about the application of particular
pedagogical methods – it is underpinned by staff attitudes, knowledge and
experience. This is a particularly important consideration in relation to pupils with
ASD, who are considered amongst the most difficult to effectively ‘include’ in
mainstream settings (House of Commons Education and Skills Committee,
2006). However, with the exception of a small handful of papers (e.g. McGregor
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& Campbell, 2001), this aspect of inclusion remains somewhat underexplored in
ASD research. In light of this, the aim of the current study was to examine the
attitudes, experience and knowledge of school staff in relation to inclusive
education for pupils with ASDs in secondary mainstream schools. Specifically,
we were interested in:
(i) staff perceptions of overall levels of inclusion within their schools,
(ii) their experience and knowledge of working with pupils with ASDs,
(iii) perceived ability to cope with key behaviours associated with ASDs,
(iv) their beliefs about different influences on integration of pupils with ASD,
(v) the relationship between (i), (iii) and (iv), and
(vi) any differences between school senior managers (including special
educational needs co-ordinators – SENCOs) and subject teachers in
relation to the above
Although the study was primarily designed to add to the knowledge base in this
rather impoverished area of research, we were also mindful of the potential
practical applications of our findings. Identifying behaviours that teachers find
difficult to cope with, for example, can help focus teacher training. This is
important as teachers feel they benefit most from training abut specific strategies
to deal with specific behaviours (Marks et al., 2003). Thus, addressing the aims
and objectives outlined above could add to both theoretical and practical
knowledge about inclusive education for pupils with ASD.
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All of the data reported in this article were collected during the execution of a
larger project on inclusive education for pupils with ASD funded by the Economic
and Social Research Council (grant reference RES-061-25-0054).
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Method
Design
The study utilised a cross-sectional survey design, incorporating both open and
closed response formats.
Participants
53 participants (21 male, 32 female) from 11 mainstream secondary schools
across the North-West of England took part in the study. 11 of the questionnaires
were completed by members of senior management, 10 by SENCOS and 32 by
English, maths or science teachers1. Of them, 8 teachers were under 30 years
old, 19 were between 31-40 years old, 10 were between 41-50 years old and the
remaining 16 were over 50.
Materials
All participants completed a 58 item questionnaire (see Appendix 1), which
covered: (i) socio-demographic information and teaching experience [5 items], (ii)
perceptions of inclusion within their school [28 items], (iii) experience and
knowledge of ASDs [4 items], (iv) influence on integration of pupils with ASDs [7
items], (v) ability to cope with behaviours associated with ASDs [10 items], and
(vi) benefits and problems associated with integration of pupils with ASD in
mainstream schools. With the exception of section (ii), which was drawn from
1 In the interests of brevity and to increase the statistical power of our analysis, the SENCO
responses were combined with those of the senior management into one group (SM) to allow
comparison with subject teachers (ST).
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the Manchester Inclusion Standard (Fox & Messiou, 2004), items in the survey
were adapted from McGregor and Campbell’s (2001) study.
One key adaptation of note relates to section (v). After consultation with the
project steering group of the wider study (which comprised a SENCO, an
Educational Psychologist, a Professor of SEN and a representative from the
National Autistic Society), it was decided that the 10 behaviours originally listed
by McGregor and Campbell (2001) were not representative of pupils with ASD in
contemporary mainstream secondary school settings2, so all but one of the
original items (‘high-levels of anxiety’) were replaced with new items developed
by the group.
Procedure
The SENCO at each school completed a questionnaire, and was asked to
choose an English, maths and science teacher, and a member of senior
management to also fill one in. Respondents were asked to complete the
questionnaires independently and return it to the researchers in the envelope
provided.
Ethical considerations
Informed consent was sought at two levels (school leadership and participant),
and all other standard ethical considerations in educational and psychological
2 The original survey was designed for use with teachers in specialist as well as mainstream
settings, making some of the items in this section inappropriate and/or invalid.
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research (e.g. anonymity and right to withdraw) (British Educational Research
Association, 2004; British Psychological Society, 2004) were followed.
Respondents were asked to complete the questionnaire at a time convenient to
them to minimise any disruption to their working day.
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Results
Quantitative data
Perceptions of inclusion within school
The items in this section utilized a Likert 1-4 scale response format, and were
combined to produce a total ‘school inclusion’ score with a possible range of 28-
112 (with higher scores indicating higher levels of inclusion). The mean school
inclusion score for the overall sample was 86.1, indicating a relatively high
degree of inclusion. The mean inclusion score for the SM group was 88.9 and
for the ST group was 84.3 although this difference was not statistically
significant (p>.05).
Experience and knowledge of ASD
Items in this section followed a binary forced choice (e.g. yes/no) response
format. Overall, 38 respondents felt they had the skills to teach a child with an
ASD, whilst 14 did not. 19 (90.5%) in the SM group felt they had the skills to
teacher a child with an ASD, whilst 2 (9.5%) did not. 19 (61.3%) teachers felt
they had the skills to teach a child with an ASD, and 12 (38.7%) did not. A Chi-
Square test revealed that this difference between groups was statistically
significant [χ2 (1) = 5.420, p<.05], indicating that senior managers and SENCOs
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were more likely to feel they had the skills to teach a child with an ASD than
subject teachers.
50 of the respondents had experience of teaching a child with an ASD, whilst 3
did not. 1 (4.8%) of the SM group had never taught a child with an ASD, whilst
the remaining 20 (95.2%) had. 2 (6.3%) in the ST group had never taught a child
with an ASD, but 30 (93.8%) had. A Chi-Square test revealed that there was no
significant difference in the experience of the two groups (p>.05).
Overall, 46 (86.8%) of respondents felt they would be likely or very likely to
attend training about ASD if it was available. The SM group were slightly more
likely to attend, with 90% saying they would be likely or very likely to attend,
compared with 81% of the ST group, but this difference was not statistically
significant (p>.05).
Respondents were asked to rank the ASD ‘triad of impairments’ (socialisation,
communication and imagination) in the order they anticipated would cause the
most difficulties for their practice. Based on these rankings, a score for each
impairment was generated to indicate which was viewed as the most
problematic. Overall, communication was found to be the most problematic
impairment, whilst imagination was considered to be the least problematic. The
same results were obtained when exploring the SM and ST responses
separately.
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Ability to cope with behaviours associated with ASD
The items in this section utilized a Likert 1-5 scale response format, and were
combined to create a total ‘coping’ score, ranging from 10 to 50 (with higher
scores indicating greater difficulty in coping). The overall mean score for the 10
items regarding the ability to cope with behaviours displayed by pupils with ASD
was 22.3 (SD = 5.79), suggesting that overall respondents felt they could cope
with the behaviours (this mean relates to an item average of 2.23 on a range of
1-5). The SM scored a mean overall score of 20.1 (SD = 5.92), whilst the ST
mean score was 23.7 (SD = 5.32). This difference was statistically significant [t
(50) = -2.317, p<.05], indicating that senior managers and SENCOs found it
easier to cope with behaviours associated with ASD than subject teachers.
The overall, SM and teacher mean scores for each item are displayed in the
graph below:
Figure 1. Respondents’ ability to cope with behaviours associated with
ASD.
<< Figure 1 here >>
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Overall, respondents found ‘displaying inappropriate emotions’ the most difficult
behaviour to cope with, whilst ‘need for routine’ was seen as the easiest. Both
groups of respondents found the ‘displaying inappropriate emotions’ behaviour
the most difficult to cope with. SM found ‘lack of eye contact’ the easiest
behaviour to cope with, whilst ST found the ‘need for rigid routine’ easiest. The
SM consistently found the listed behaviours easier to cope with than the teachers
did. A series of t-test showed that these differences were significant for
‘rigid/literal thinking’ [t (50) = -2.369, p<.05], ‘lack of social understanding’ [t (50)
= -2.186, p<.05], ‘lack of eye contact’ [t (50) = -2.325, p<.05] and ‘poor turn taking
skills’ [t (50) = -2.549, p<.05].
Influences on integration of pupils with ASDs
The items in this section utilized a Likert 1-5 scale response format, and were
combined to create a total ‘influences on integration’ score ranging from 7 to 35
(following Low’s (2007) taxonomy, lower scores were interpreted as representing
more ‘moderate’ views on integration, and higher scores as representing more
‘universalist’ views3). The overall mean score for ‘influence on integration’ items
was 19.7 (SD = 4.36), indicating a mixed-to-moderate viewpoint. The overall
mean score for the SM group was 20.1 (SD = 5.24) and for the ST group it was
19.5 (SD = 3.75). This marginal difference was not statistically significant [t (51) =
3 The moderate view of inclusion suggests that integration depends upon a range of factors and
is not appropriate for all children; the universalist view suggests that there should be no such
‘conditions’ placed upon a child’s right to be educated in his/her local mainstream school.
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.546, p>.05]. The overall, SM and ST mean responses to each item are displayed
in the graph below:
Figure 2. Teachers’ views of influences on integration of pupils with ASD.
<< figure 2 here >>
In general, SM had higher item scores (indicating more universalist views) than
ST. However, a series of t-tests revealed that there were no significant
differences between the SM and ST mean scores for these items (all p>.05),
suggesting that senior managers/SENCOs and subject teachers have similar
attitudes towards the successful integration of children with ASDs.
Relationship between perceptions of inclusion within school, ability to cope with
ASD behaviours and influences on integration of pupils with ASD
The relationship between total scores for these three sections of the
questionnaire were examined using a Pearson’s correlation. The total coping
score was positively correlated with total influences on integration score, and
negatively correlated with the total school inclusion score, but these relationships
were not statistically significant (p>.05). The total school inclusion score was
negatively correlated with total successful integration score, and this correlation
was statistically significant (r= -.272, p<0.5). This indicates that participants with
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more moderate views on integration were more likely to feel that there were high
levels of inclusion within their school.
Qualitative data
Due to overlap in responses, the qualitative responses from SM and ST are
presented together.
What benefits do you think a child with ASD may gain if integrated into a
mainstream school?
Respondents overwhelming cited social inclusion, including developing social
skills, learning to interact with peers and making friends, as the key benefits to a
child with ASD integrated into mainstream school (n=23, e.g. ‘they would be able
to develop appropriate social skills’). Developing coping strategies that can be
used in wider society (n=6, e.g. ‘preparation for life…experience of practicing
coping skills’) was also seen as a benefit, as was access to a range of subjects
(n=6, e.g.a greater range of subjects’). Other benefits included avoiding stigma
associated with attending a special school (n=3, e.g. ‘less stigma within home
and community’) and learning to accept pupils who are different from themselves
(n=3, e.g. ‘gives them a better understanding of pupils without ASD’).
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What problems do you think a child with ASD may encounter if integrated into a
mainstream school?
In contrast to responses to the question above, social inclusion was identified as
a problem pupils with ASD would encounter; this included bullying, isolation and
difficulty making friends (n=24, e.g. ‘isolation, especially at social times’). Lack of
awareness from peers (n=10, e.g. encountering other students who don’t
understand ASD and problems associated with this’) and staff (n=9, e.g. ‘staff not
understanding needs’) were also cited as problems pupils with ASDs might
encounter. Stress was seen as another problem (n=7, e.g. ‘may feel
overwhelmed’), as was difficulty coping with changes in routine (n=6, e.g.
‘struggle to cope with changing routines’).
What benefits do you think a pupil in mainstream schools may gain when a child
with ASD is integrated into mainstream school?
Respondents felt that the key benefits mainstream pupils would gain from a child
with ASD integrated into mainstream was increased understanding and tolerance
of people different to themselves (n= 25, e.g. ‘understanding that people are
individuals, everyone is different and that all should be valued’), and the chance
to experience a wider society (n=6, e.g. ‘experience of more society, not just
‘mainstream’ or ‘normal’ ability pupils’). It would also lead to an increased
understanding of ASD (n=6, e.g. ‘a greater understanding of children with ASDs’)
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and help them develop social skills to interact with people different from
themselves (n=2, e.g. ‘learn to interact with peers who think or react differently’).
What problems do you think pupils in mainstream schools may encounter when a
child with ASDs is integrated into mainstream school?
The major problem peers may experience were identified as frustration and
difficulty accepting why a pupil with ASD is treated differently, such as why
certain behaviours go unpunished (n=15, e.g. ‘difficulties understanding why
different rules and expectations apply. This could be seen as unfair’). It was also
felt that a number of pupils may feel uncomfortable when confronted by
inappropriate and aggressive behaviour from a pupil with ASD (n=10, e.g. ‘some
children may feel uncomfortable when faced with aggressive behaviour’). There
were concerns that pupils with ASD may disrupt the learning of mainstream
peers (n=7, e.g. ‘possibility of disturbance within lessons if regimes are not kept’),
and that pupils may experience difficulties trying to understand the behaviour of
pupils with ASD (n=5, e.g. ‘they may struggle to understand why the ASD child
behaves in a certain way’). Finally, respondents felt that if appropriate support
was not available in the classroom, the presence of a pupil with ASD might result
in reduced attention from the teacher for the other pupils (n=3, e.g. ‘if proper
support isn’t available, pupils may have a lack of attention directed towards
them…they need a lot of person power’).
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Discussion
Our survey revealed several interesting patterns and trends which may prove
useful in thinking about future teacher training needs and issues around inclusive
education for students with ASD more generally. We begin this discussion
section with a brief overview of our main findings. Firstly, respondents reported
relatively high levels of inclusion within their schools this gives a clear
indication that they felt they were operating in an environment that should be
conducive to the integration of learners with ASD. However, subject teachers
reported significantly lower self-efficacy in relation to having the skills necessary
to teach such students than did senior managers and SENCOs. This difference
did not appear to be related to having had direct experience of teaching students
with ASD though, with over 90% of both groups having taught at least one such
student. On the whole, around 4 in every 5 respondents reported that they would
attend further training on ASD if this were made available indicating a strong
willingness to develop their knowledge and expertise. In terms of ability to cope
with certain behaviours associated with ASD, the sample as a whole responded
positively, but subject teachers reported significantly lower coping than senior
managers and SENCOs. More specifically, they felt less able to cope with
students’ rigid and/or literal thinking, lack of social understanding, lack of eye
contact, and poor turn-taking skills. Taking the sample as a whole, the
behaviours that were viewed as the most problematic were inappropriate
emotional displays, heightened anxiety, and poor turn-taking skills. With regard
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to influences on integration, the sample presented a mixed-to-moderate
viewpoint, and this was directly related to their views of inclusion within their
school, with more moderate views being associated with more positive views of
school inclusion. Finally, respondents reported a range of potential benefits and
challenge of inclusion for both students with ASD and their peers. Perhaps most
significantly, social inclusion was seen as both a potential benefit and a potential
problem.
The finding that on average respondents felt able to cope with behaviours
associated with ASD is contrary to much of the previous literature in this area
(e.g. Dybvik, 2004; Sinz, 2004). This could perhaps be due to the fact that nearly
all of them had experience of working with pupils with ASDs, which previous
studies have linked to more confidence in the classroom (Glashan, Mackay, &
Grieve, 2004; McGregor & Campbell, 2001). However, another explanation for
the findings might be that the list of ‘ASD behaviours’ did not include behaviours
with which respondents did have difficulty coping. It may have perhaps been
advantageous to have allowed space for participants to generate their own
behaviours. These findings may also have arisen as a result of the sampling
criteria - SENCOs were asked to select participants to complete the
questionnaire and it is possible those members of senior management or
teachers who were regarded as better able to cope with pupils with ASDs were
selected. Random selection of participants may have been more appropriate, but
this is not always feasible in relatively small-scale educational research.
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Differences in which behaviours the SENCOs/SM and teachers found easier or
more difficult to cope with suggests that training may need to be differentiated for
different school personnel. This concurs with findings from (Hess, Morrier, Heflin,
& Ivey, 2008), who found that strategies for working with pupils with ASDs can
vary within the same educational setting. However, the finding that ‘displaying
inappropriate emotions’ was found as the most difficult behaviour to cope with by
both groups suggests that this is an area where training could be usefully
targeted. Training is not only important to help teachers cope with this behaviour,
but also because previous research has suggested that problems dealing with
challenging behaviour can lead to less positive teacher-pupils relationships – this
in turn can result in pupils being more likely to be socially excluded by their peers
(Robertson, Chamberlain, & Kasari, 2003).
SENCOs/SM demonstrated greater levels of self-efficacy in teaching pupils with
ASD and also reported higher coping levels in relation to ‘ASD behaviours’ than
did teachers. This may suggest that knowledge, expertise and strategies of
SENCOs/SM are not being filtered through to subject teachers. This is
particularly concerning given that a key part of the SENCOs role is providing
professional guidance to those working with pupils with SEN (Abbott, 2007).
Findings from McCabe (2008) offer a possible explanation for this difference in
coping skills. They found that the effectiveness of teacher training was facilitated
by positive relationships between senior and newer members of staff. Schools
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may therefore need to build on these relationships to ensure knowledge and
strategies for effective teaching of pupils with ASDs are passed on.
SENCOs/SM were more likely to agree that pupils with ASD should be integrated
into mainstream schools where possible than teachers (see Figure 2). This could
be because they felt they had the skills to teach and cope with a pupil with ASD,
echoing findings from other studies (e.g. Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2000;
Horrocks, White, & Roberts, 2008; Huang & Wheeler, 2007). This notion is
supported by the finding (in preliminary analyses not reported in this article)
that ‘ASD behaviour’ scores could account for some of the variance in the level of
agreement with the statement. It is also perhaps an unsurprising finding given the
SENCOs responsibility to promote inclusion of all pupils within their school
(Abbott, 2007).
Teachers felt that the severity of a pupils ASD was an important factor in the
successful integration of pupils with ASD, more so than SENCOs/SM (see Figure
2). This may again be a result of the fact that SENCOs/SM felt better able to
cope with pupils with ASDs. Teachers regarded teaching assistants (TAs) as
crucial to the successful inclusion of pupils with ASDs, and this resonates with
previous research (Rose, 2001). Alston & Kilham (2004), for example, found that
teachers felt TAs as ensured consistency for pupils with ASD across different
lessons and teachers. The finding that SENCOs/SM do not feel that TAs are so
important is concerning as they are responsible for the recruitment and
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deployment of TAs – it is possible that teachers are not getting the support they
need as senior staff do not see the importance of TA provision.
Social inclusion was seen as both a benefit and a challenge for pupils with ASD
included in mainstream schools, mirroring current discourse. Advocates of
inclusion argue that it provides pupils with ASDs the opportunities to develop
their social skills through interaction with non-disabled peers (Kasari &
Rotheram-Fuller, 2007). Peer relationships are coming to be regarded as a key
part of the inclusion of pupils with ASDs, exemplified by Ochs, Kremer-Sadlick,
Solomon & Sirota (2001) who argued that, ‘the practice of inclusion rests
primarily on unaffected schoolmates rather than teachers’ (p.399). At present,
however, research suggests that the social outcomes of pupils with ASDs in
mainstream schools can be very negative. They are, for example, up to three
times more likely to be bullied and report receiving less social support than pupils
with other or no SEN (Humphrey & Symes, 2010). A possible explanation for
these negative social outcomes may come from the concerns raised by some
participants in this study - that students without difficulties can become frustrated
by, and not understand the differential treatment of pupils with ASDs.
Substantiating this proposition, Hemmingsson, Borell & Gustavsson (2003) found
that peers were likely to be jealous of, and to social exclude pupils, with physical
disabilities if they felt they were being treated differently. In these cases, TAs
could minimise this negative impact, by including other peers in the differentiated
26
activities. This again gives further sway to the argument that TAs may be crucial
to the successful inclusion of pupils with ASDs.
Conclusion
The aim of the current study was to examine the attitudes, experience and
knowledge of school staff in relation to inclusive education for pupils with ASDs in
secondary mainstream schools. At a general level, we found more positive
responses than have been reported in previous studies, indicating that attitudes
towards inclusion of this particular group of learners may be changing over time
(for instance, the research by McGregor and Campbell (2001), upon which much
of our survey was based, was conducted a decade ago). We also found that
senior managers and SENCOs reported greater self-efficacy in teaching pupils
with ASD and in coping with behaviours associated with ASD. Both groups
reported inappropriate emotional displays as the most problematic behaviour to
deal with in school which of course has implications for future staff training
needs. Finally, respondents reported social inclusion as both a potential benefit
and challenge for pupils with ASD. This suggests a more complex route to
effective inclusion than either the universalist (e.g. Ainscow, 2007) or moderate
(e.g. Low, 2007) writers currently suggest.
27
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... Research into the school experiences of autism (Humphrey et al., 2015) and gender-diverse (McBride & Schubutz, 2017) CYP highlight some common experiences, including the raised levels of mental health difficulties, school avoidance or exclusion and difficulties with peer relationships. Research has also evidenced a shared experience relating to the challenges of inclusion for CYP within these populations (Horton, 2020;Humphrey & Symes, 2013). Key systemic factors affecting the inclusion of autistic CYP are thought to include school culture, environment and staff perceptions (Humphrey & Symes, 2013), whilst gender-diverse CYP also face a range of structural inequalities through cisnormative school practices and exclusionary interactions with staff and peers (McBride, 2021). ...
... Research has also evidenced a shared experience relating to the challenges of inclusion for CYP within these populations (Horton, 2020;Humphrey & Symes, 2013). Key systemic factors affecting the inclusion of autistic CYP are thought to include school culture, environment and staff perceptions (Humphrey & Symes, 2013), whilst gender-diverse CYP also face a range of structural inequalities through cisnormative school practices and exclusionary interactions with staff and peers (McBride, 2021). The importance of staff awareness of needs facilitated through whole-school training for autism (Ravet, 2011) and gender-diversity (Horton, 2020) is also recognised. ...
... EPs, with their knowledge of educational systems, are ideally positioned to support gender-diverse (Yavuz, 2016) (Ravet, 2011) are regulated and restricted at the level of the organisation is a key aspect of EP work in this area and was reflected in this study. EPs have a well-established role in promoting inclusion for the rights and needs of young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including autism and neurodiversities (Humphrey & Symes, 2013) and more broadly within a social justice framework (Schultze et al., 2019). EPs are well-placed to support gender-diverse CYP through transformative systemic change within educational contexts (Yavuz, 2016). ...
Article
Aims: Research into the nature of educational psychologist (EP) practice when supporting autistic, gender-diverse children and young people (CYP) is within its infancy. This study explores the experiences and practices of five EPs with applied knowledge of work in this emerging area. Method: Semi-structured interviews were conducted and a reflexive thematic analysis carried out to develop themes. Findings: Findings highlight distinct areas of practice and challenges faced by participants. In particular, this study highlights the uncertainty and complexity of work in this area with a specific focus upon the intersectionality of autism and gender diversity. The nature of direct work with CYP and support for inclusive schooling practices are also explored alongside current gaps in educational psychology practice in this area. Limitations: Given the aim of this study to provide an exploratory entry point into the practices of EPs working with this population of young people, the researchers did not aim for representativeness. Therefore, subjective participant experiences cannot be assumed to reflect those of all EPs with applied knowledge in this area. Conclusions: Implications for research and practice are discussed including the development of resources and guidance within educational psychology services to support practitioners in their work in this area. A discussion of the need for EPs to utilise their knowledge of intersectionality when working with the uncertainty of dual identity casework is provided alongside reflections about the nature of EP work in supporting schools to further develop their inclusive practices.
... Policy and documents have a clear vision of inclusion goals, however schools struggle to keep pace with these statements, acts and guidelines (Humphrey & Symes, 2013;Pellicano et al., 2018). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) further sheds light on the importance of receiving the support required within the general education system to facilitate effective education. ...
... Some literature shows positive teacher attitudes towards inclusion. However, they see several barriers, e.g., inadequate resources and lack of teacher preparation (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002;Humphrey & Symes, 2013), where some needs and disabilities are described as more challenging than others (de Boer, Pijl, & Minnaert, 2011). Undeniably, there is not enough teacher training for meeting diversity in the classroom (Alexander, Ayres, & Smith, 2015;Bartonek et al., 2018;Forlin, 2010). ...
... Literature shows a poor picture of certain areas for students with NDC in inclusive settings e.g., lower participation (Falkmer et al., 2012), social exclusion (Humphrey & Lewis, 2008;Humphrey & Symes, 2013) and higher levels of anxiety and development of mental health difficulties (Andersson, 2020). In a large study, Andersson (2020) reports reasons for school absenteeism among Swedish students with ASD, where the absenteeism was a consequence of lack of teacher competence and inadequate adaption of teaching towards students' special needs. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Abstract Introduction: Inclusive education is the response to the human rights movement that requested equal rights to general education for all students, independent of their prerequisites and/or disabilities. Inclusion is different from integration, which concentrates on the capacities of an individual to adapt to a given mainstream. Inclusion demands that we change the existing educational environment in order to respond to the diverse needs of all learners. Inclusive education focuses on multiple aspects, such as participation, belonging and academic achievement. Teachers’ attitudes, as well as their experience of working with children having neurodevelopmental conditions (NDC), is well described in the literature as crucial for creating and believing in inclusive values. The prerequisites for general teachers (e.g., professional development, supervision and resources) in mainstream school settings are poor. As the number of children on the autism spectrum and with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in inclusive settings is increasing, the need for evidence-based strategies to facilitate inclusion has become urgent. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are neurodevelopmental conditions associated with deficits that can make life in school harder, e.g., executive dysfunctions or social impairments. Little is known about the practical dimensions of inclusive education from different angles. Furthermore, there is a lack of views and perspectives from the students themselves, whose environment we are aiming to improve. Theoretical frameworks used for the design and interpretation of studies in this thesis are the bio-ecological model by Bronfenbrenner, the bio-psychological framework from the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, the ICF Core Sets and the Human Environment Interaction model (HEI). Objectives: This research examines inclusive practice for students with neurodevelopmental conditions. The overall aim of this thesis is to explore educational inclusion for students with NDC, focusing on how it works in practice and what key elements are essential for the development of more powerful inclusive agendas. For this purpose, four studies were conducted: a systematic literature review (study I), an intervention study for teachers’ learning (study II), an exploratory study of social validity from social skills training (study III) and a multi-perspective study of lived experiences of educational inclusion (study IV). Methods: Study II-IV consisted of a mixed methods design, with qualitative and quantitative methods, including participants with ADHD and ASD (adolescents), their caregivers and professionals (teachers and school management). Participants were recruited from mainstream high and secondary schools. Two of the studies are multi-responder studies. In study III, the responders are students, teachers and school management and in study IV, students, parents and teachers. The triangulation increases the validity through the convergence of information from different participants. Data collection tools are the literature search (study I), questionnaires (study II) and semi-structured interviews and structured surveys conducted through interviews based on the instrument INCLUSIO (study IV). The sample size in study II is n = 26, in study III, n = 20 (students n = 13, teachers n = 5 and school management n = 2) and in study IV, n = 56 (students n = 19, caregivers n = 17 and teachers n = 17). Quantitative data in study II and IV was handled and analyzed with the SPSS (Version 27) and analyzed by descriptive and inference statistics. The interviews in study III were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim with meaningful concepts extracted from the transcriptions and linked to social validity categories from the work by Wolf (1978) and analyzed through thematic analysis. Results: The results based on the completed data collection show supporting and hindering areas in the school environment. Accommodations in the learning environment is a promising but understudied approach. Effective accommodations for enhancing learning for students on the autism spectrum found in study I are didactical accommodations for completing tasks and assignments, prompting procedures for on-task behavior, social interventions for better functioning and social inclusion and video-modeling for understanding and preparing for different situations in school. Professional development for teachers’ learning towards improved self-efficacy and inclusive skills are effective, despite the lack of long-term perspectives. Training teachers in implementing evidence-based methods in practice can be done by lesson study cycles. Teachers’ knowledge of concrete accommodations rose from the initial phase where assumptions about an improved learning environment can be made. Social skills group training is feasible in naturalistic settings, such as the school environment. There were generalizations of teachers’ as well as students’ skills. Moreover, the whole school’s social environment was developed and improved. Results from study IV demonstrate large discrepancy in some of the areas significant for inclusion in school, e.g., direct instructions and individual support, available resources, the social environment and the responsibility for achievement. Parents and students express lack of sufficient support in the explicit classroom situation, e.g., with tasks and assignments. The teachers evaluated the learning environment as more inclusive than students and parents in most of the examined areas. Similar views and agreements were in the lack of competence among staff. For educational inclusion, most valuable was individual support, followed by functional response to behavioral characteristics and a structured learning environment. Conclusions: As more students on the autism spectrum and other developmental conditions are attending inclusive environments, exploring and evaluating practice from multiple perspectives can ascertain what is working well and what is not. Furthermore, this research indicates how to improve inclusive education and contributes with evidence of how to enhance participation for students with NDC, e.g., by professional development for teachers and social skills group training for students. Our findings show that the students themselves are still regarded as the owners of the problem and the learning environment is not accommodating enough, where especially the psychosocial domain is neglected. In order to adjust the learning environment sufficiently to provide inclusive education, there is a need for further and more extensive competence regarding learners’ characteristics and conditions associated with NDC. In order to provide an equal learning environment for all students, there is a need for inclusive special didactics. This study contributes to stakeholders and educators as well as to the society as a whole in order to further strengthen the inclusive agenda
... Whilst there is a drive for inclusivity within education for children with ASD through adapting provision (Humphrey and Symes 2013;Lindsay et al. 2014), funding the provision of support is a major challenge for schools often due to wider systemic structures. For example, 82% of mainstream schools do not have sufficient funding to adequately provide for pupils with special educational needs (SEN), and 89% of school leaders report cuts to local authority services negatively impacts provision (The Key 2016a). ...
... Furthermore, due to the focus of higher management on examination results, SEN pupils have the lowest priority for teachers. Given teachers with the greatest skills work more effectively with the pupils with the highest needs (Humphrey and Symes 2013), TAs should work with those who need less support and specialist teachers work with ASD. This would require a conceptual shift and support from the wider system of headteachers, SENCOs and Ofsted. ...
Article
Full-text available
Inclusive practices mean many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) attend mainstream education settings. To manage the stressors involved and access its benefits, support can be critical. Indeed, insufficient support can detrimentally impact wellbeing, longer-term development, and the inclusivity agenda. Expanding a limited evidence-base on educational support after diagnosis, focus groups and interviews were conducted for eight parent/carers of children with ASD, twelve special education needs (SEN) school staff, and four children with ASD attending mainstream school. An inductive thematic analysis on the data elicited three themes: a system overwhelmed by unmet needs, the impact on quality of life, and hope for the future. The overwhelming finding was a significant lack of education support for parent/carers and school staff, with the mainstream education system poorly designed and insufficiently resourced to facilitate the inclusion of children with ASD, particularly for those impacted by historic difficulties with access. The tireless work of parent/carers and frontline SEN educators fostered a sense of hope and engendered inclusivity for the children who participated, who felt supported. Given their buffering role, protecting and supporting parent/carer and SEN teacher wellbeing requires a policy shift supporting longer term inclusivity alongside improvements in funding streams and accessibility in provision.
... This report (UNESCO, 2020a) highlights the situation of the most vulnerable groups, including students with disabilities. Among these, it is known that teachers perceive students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), especially those who require more support, with greater concern regarding their inclusion (Cassimos et al., 2016;de Bruin, 2019;Humphrey & Symes, 2013;González del Rivera, et al., in press). The present work is focused on these students who are vulnerable to processes of educational exclusion. ...
... ASD students with greater support needs face a series of barriers that might prevent them from making the most of their inclusive education (Humphrey & Symes, 2013). Parents who defend the right of their children with ASD to be educated in inclusive environments believe this context provides their children with opportunities to participate with neurotypical peers, which is regarded as an important element in their development (De Boer et al., 2010;Koster et al., 2009). ...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this study was to find out about attitudes toward inclusion and benefits perceived by families with children enrolled in schools attended by students with ASD at different educational stages (from kindergarten to high school). 323 families of classmates of students with ASD from different educational stages of 16 mainstream schools participated. The analysis of the attitudes, perceived benefits, relationship with the teacher, and relationship with the school was carried out through questionnaires. The results show positive attitudes toward the inclusive education of students with ASD in all families, but especially among families of children with SEN. All the families identified the benefit of inclusion. Attitudes are related to collaboration with the school and satisfaction with teachers.
... Peer relationships play an essential role in the successful inclusion of students with autism in schools and the wider community (44). There is an interesting paradox about inclusion in Greece. ...
Article
Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all levels of society, including people with disabilities, who in the pre-pandemic period faced obstacles in various sectors of life that affected efforts to fulfill basic living needs due to difficulties in accessing employment. Objective: The objective of this study was to identify various factors and causal interaction patterns that affect the inclusiveness of workers with disabilities in pandemic situations, a dynamic system is needed to capture causal interaction patterns related to the inclusiveness of workers with disabilities in pandemic situations. Method: This study used a causal loop diagram approach, which is part of a dynamic system that begins with determining the interaction of causal variables. The process of identifying and extracting data was carried out through a literature review and in-depth interviews with informants who met the principles of appropriateness and adequacy criteria. Result: The interaction pattern between the factors that influence the inclusiveness of disabled workers was depicted in three causal loop diagrams covering three major domains, namely social, educational, and economic aspects. The three causal loop diagrams showed an increasingly dynamic interaction pattern during the COVID-19 pandemic, considering that workers with disabilities have greater vulnerability, which impacts their level of acceptance and inclusiveness at work. Recommendation: There needs to be a specific policy to expand the acceptance of workers with disabilities by strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration and company commitments. The existence of a policy that prioritizes education, increases the budget, and procures adequate infrastructure for people with disabilities is a government commitment that is demanded to be fulfilled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
... When no students are currently enrolled in LRC at a school, special needs educational support is likely to stop. This finding is consistent with existing evidence that teacher training is often in short supply in many countries (37,38). The lack of relevant training has been found to cause stress for a large number of teachers (39), which likely triggers burnout (40). ...
Article
Given an increasing number of children with ASD, the need for inclusive education has rapidly increased in China. Since 2011, children with ASD have been eligible for inclusive education. However, little is known of the implementation process by key personnel. The purpose of the current study was to qualitatively explore elementary school teachers' experiences and perspectives on an inclusive education policy and practice for students with ASD. Participants were from 5 elementary schools in 2 districts in Shanghai. This study consisted of data collection in 2 phases. First, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with school psychologists and vice principals responsible for students' mental health for implementation of general inclusive education at each school. Second, focus groups of frontline teachers were assembled to hear their firsthand experiences. A thematic analysis was performed. Findings indicated that although all 5 schools had some ASD-related support, training and resources varied depending on whether learning in regular classrooms (LRC) was implemented. Frontline teachers in particular faced challenges implementing LRC, including the limited extent of LRC, tedious implementation procedures, and parents' misconceptions of LRC. Regardless of these challenges, frontline teachers tried to support students with ASD as much as they could. The current findings should help to advance the inclusive education policy in Shanghai, including increasing the availability of inclusive education resources and training for teachers, issuing specific LRC guidance, and reducing ASD-related stigma. This study is among the first to explore the implementation of inclusive education in urban China.
Chapter
The global pursuit for inclusion officially started with the United Nations Salamanca Statement, which called for the integration of children with special educational needs (SEN) into mainstream schooling. This triggered a substantial universal restructure of education systems, which includes a major reconsideration of teacher education for inclusion in order to prepare teachers to teach their diverse learners. Through a comparative case study design, this study explores inclusive practices in primary education in England and Bahrain. More specifically, the study examines the way in which schools support teachers' in-service professional development (PD) which then aid in the implementation of inclusive education. The findings reveal PD practices for inclusion in England which focus on support for SEN and improving teacher attitudes towards inclusion as well as PD practices in Bahrain that emphasise the assimilation of new teachers and the promotion of a collaborative teaching environment.
Article
One of the factors linked to the successful inclusion of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the notion that the attitudes of teaching professionals are related to the perceived efficacy of educational practices. The aim of this study was to explore the relationships between the perceived efficacy of a set of practices specifically aimed at children with ASD and the perceived drivers and attitudes toward their full inclusion. We estimated a structural equation model that included socioprofessional variables of the 454 teachers taking part in the study. The results show that greater efficacy of the practices implemented with children with ASD results in more positive attitudes toward the education of these children in inclusive settings. Similarly, drivers of inclusion also improve teachers’ attitudes toward these children. The findings suggest the need to improve teacher training and provide teachers with the resources necessary to adapt their practices to all children.
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This study addresses how help is provided for pupils with physical disabilities and how school assistants influence their participation in school. Data were collected through field observations and interviews with seven pupils between 7 and 15 years old and with each pupil's teacher and assistant. The analysis resulted in a description of features that influenced how help was provided and the consequences in school for the pupil with disabilities. A major finding was that the assistants could both facilitate and hinder participation. We concluded that an awareness of the priority the pupils place on social participation with their peers is needed to ensure effective and flexible support is made available to pupils with disabilities.
Article
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The number of pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) attending mainstream schools is increasing, but there is evidence that their needs may not be fully met. Previous research has suggested that such pupils are at an increased risk of social exclusion. In light of this, the aim of the current study was to examine the sociometric status, perceived levels of peer social support, and the frequency of bullying experienced by this group of learners. Our sample comprised 40 pupils with ASD, 40 pupils with dyslexia, and a reference group of 40 pupils with no identified special educational needs, matched by age and gender (and, for the ASD and dyslexic groups, the stage of the SEN Code of Practice). Participants completed the Social Support Scale for Children (Harter, 1985) and the My Life in School Questionnaire (Arora & Thompson, 1987), and their peers completed the Social Inclusion Survey (Frederickson & Graham, 1999). Our analyses indicated that pupils with ASD experienced higher levels of rejection and lower levels of acceptance than either reference group. They also reported lower levels of peer social support and higher levels of bullying. These findings are discussed in relation to previous research and the efficacy of the inclusion movement.
Article
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88 L egal and international agreements state that pupils with disabilities shall have the same opportunity to benefit from school life as non-disabled pupils, both socially and educationally (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1994; United Nations General Assem-bly, 1989; United Nations General Assembly, 1993). To fulfill this goal, actions are needed in several areas. Both in Sweden and internationally, the use of assistants in school has become a primary tool to facilitate the participation of pupils with disabilities (Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997; Ministry of Social Affairs, 1998). According to Webster's concise dictionary (Landau, 1997), the term "participation" means to take part in or have a share in common with others. Inherent in the term participation is also each par-ticipant's opportunity to influence the conditions of the group by participating in decision-making, something that is often highlighted by client organ-izations and state and legal documents (Barnes, Mercer, & Shakespeare, 1999; Brownlea, 1987; Lewin, 1998; Ministry of Social Affairs, 1999). In the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF), the term participation has a specif-ic meaning in the context of health and is defined as "involvement in life situations" (World Health Organization, 2001). However, the qualifier (numer-ic codes that specify the extent or magnitude of the functioning or disability in that category) of partici-pation is the performance that describes what an individual does (with or without assistance) in his or her current environment. The ICF states that because the current environment includes a societal context, performance could also be understood as "involvement in a life situation" (World Health Organization, 2001). It is noteworthy that the indi-vidual's experience of participation and autonomy is not included in the ICF's operationalization of the term.
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This article focuses on factors that promote the use of appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities in early childhood inclusive settings. It investigates the kinds of accommodations that were used with two children who were educated in two settings—a mainstream classroom, and a small unit in which the majority of children were on the autism spectrum. The study found that teaching assistants did not always foster social inclusion; that accommodations were not used consistently across the mainstream and specialised settings; and that planning time and training may be important ways to foster inclusionary practices. In addition, the high frequency of staff changes was noted, which may not be compatible with the demand for structure, routine and consistency that is commonly associated with children on the autism spectrum.
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There are various views among academics and researchers about the best type of educational provision for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. In the present study parents and professionals were interviewed to get a better insight into their perceptions regarding the various educational provisions on the specialist to mainstream continuum. Parents seem to be of the view that whatever the educational provision, teachers should have adequate autism-specific training. If all teachers were trained in this way, parents see advantage in the child being in mainstream settings. More importantly, whatever the provision, the quality of delivery, staff attitude and curriculum modification play an important part in creating an inclusive environment.