Here is the abstract from Emily Erceylan’s final year research project, supervised by Dr Carol Moxam.
Are children with autism included in mainstream provisions? Perspectives from neurotypical 7-11 year olds in the North East of England.
Neurotypical peer-exclusion of children with autism in mainstream provisions is a current issue, which has detrimental consequences for those with autism (APPGA, 2017). This study reports 77 neurotypical children’s perspectives towards inclusion of children with autism, in the North East of England. Participants completed a questionnaire in relation to a hypothetical child (character) from a vignette, with four variations of characters: 1) neurotypical male; 2) neurotypical female; 3) male with autism; 4) female with autism. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions.
Data from the questionnaire measured participant perspectives towards inclusion of the character. Three variables were investigated on participant responses: 1) Character autism status; 2) Character gender; 3) Participant gender. 5-point Likert scales obtained quantitative data which measured perspectives towards inclusion; analysed statistically. Comment boxes obtained qualitative data and provided insight into quantitative findings; analysed with deductive Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
Findings confirmed that characters with autism were perceived to be less included by participants than neurotypical characters, to a highly statistically significant level. The influence of character or participant gender were not statistically significant. Although, qualitative data found that female characters received more positive comments, and, found that female participants provided slightly more positive ratings than male participants.
Overall, findings confirm claims from APPGA (2017); neurotypical children hold negative perspectives towards inclusion of children with autism. Thus, findings suggest that mainstream schools, concerned about peer-inclusion of children with autism, should attempt to change perspectives of neurotypical pupils, through teaching autism awareness (NAS, 2019e).
Key words: Autism, neurotypical, mainstream primary education, inclusion, perspectives.