Inclusion of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in General Education Classroom
EDSP 601-Survey of Exceptional Children
Morehead State University
Mary Jane “Janie” Blair
Inclusion of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in General Education Classrooms
Children are being identified with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) at an alarmingly high rate which results in a very high probability that ALL teachers will have students with ASD in their general education classroom at some point and time during their careers. You may be asking what is autism spectrum disorders (ASD)? When people talk about “Autism” today, they are usually referring to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). ASD is a brain-based disorder which is characterized by social-communication challenges and restrictive behaviors, activities, and interest. The definition of ASD has been changed by IDEA over the years, according to IDEA 2004:
Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3, that adversely affects education performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or changes in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. Autism does not apply if a child’s education performance is adversely affected primarily because the child has a serious emotional disturbance. A child who manifests the characteristics of autism after age three could be identified as having autism if the criteria…are satisfied.CITATION Col17 p 309 l 1033 (Colarusso, O’Rourke, & Leontovich, 2017, p. 309)Research shows that boys are about 4.5 times more likely to be affected by autism than girls CITATION Wha18 l 1033 (What is Autism, 2018). ASD is found in all racial, ethnic, and social groups. There has not been a known single cause for autism, however, the best available science suggests that it is due to important genetic components, that it is a genetically based condition. Scientist are unsure if any environmental triggers may be involved in ASD. However, one theory that has been popular since the late 1990’s that vaccinations cause autism, has been disproven by numerous research studies that have been completed around the world.
In order for teachers in the general education classroom to feel more confident in their ability to teach students in their classroom they must first have or develop an understanding of what autism spectrum disorder is. It is often difficult for the general teacher to deal with the inclusion of a child with ASD into their classroom due to the challenges that students with this disorder display. For the general teacher to be able to affectively meet the needs of these students there should be some level of training provided. Autism Spectrum Disorders are characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and communication skills, as well as by the presence of extremely challenging behaviors. Such behaviors include repetitive motor behaviors (hand flapping, body rocking), insistence on sameness, resistance to change and in some cases, aggression or self-injury. These behaviors can be very difficult for general education teachers to manage.
In 1990 when Congress reauthorized EAHCA and renamed the act to The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) they also added two new categories of disability with one of those being Autism. These students had been receiving services prior to the name of the new category, they were just included under a different category. Once these laws have been passed then detailed regulation are written as guidelines to follow. These regulations describe the procedures that must be followed to be incompliance with the law. One of the mandates of IDEA is that educating students with disabilities must be in the least restrictive environment (LRE), which means that they should be placed in the general classroom with their nondisabled peers to the greatest possible extent and appropriately. This means an inclusive classroom for most general education teachers. Inclusion of children with autism or with other disabilities is important. Nondisabled students are given the opportunity to interact with others that have disabilities and it provides a time for them to be exposed to diversity. Students learn how to interact with someone that is different than themselves and to not be afraid or shy away from someone with differences. Through the use of differentiated instruction students with ASD are taught and held to the same standards as the rest of the population in the classroom. Research has shown that one of the greatest benefits of inclusive classroom is the social skills that students learn that will assist them in functioning more independently.
When autism was first being identified and defined, medical personnel believed it to be a type of emotional disturbance that was caused by the reaction of a child to a cold and unloving mother which was often referred to as a refrigerator mother (Colarusso et al., 2017). Dr Leo Kanner first described autism in 1943. Dr Kanner was the first person to conduct a study on children who showed a marked lack of interest in other people, but who also had a highly unusual interest in inanimate surroundings CITATION Wha18 l 1033 (What is Autism, 2018). Dr. Kanner reported on eleven children who had been identified with this marked interest, which he termed “autism” to characterize the behaviors of the group of children that he was studying, who he thought to be so self-centered that they could not relate to the world around them. Prior to the labeling of autism, children with these particular characteristics were misdiagnosed as childhood schizophrenia, mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, or some other disorder. Hans Asperger was known for identifying individuals who were on the high functioning side of autism and that could talk, which was later termed as Asperger’s Syndrome. ASD is a genetically based disability. Although researchers have not actually discovered exactly what gene mutations or even what specific chromosomes are involved, however, these mutations result in differences in the way the neurological system develops and functions.
ASD disorders are being identified at an alarming high rate. The increase in identification can possibly be accredited to Manuals that have been published that outlines which symptoms meet the criteria for ASD that was not available in earlier years. Therefore, it is hard to compare autism rates over the last several decades. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) reported that approximately 1 in 68 children in the United States has been identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. In the 1980’s, autism was reported as 1 in 10,000 CITATION Wha18 l 1033 (What is Autism, 2018). However, ASD continues to be almost 5 times more common in boys. There is usually nothing about a child, with ASD, physical appearance, that distinguishes them from other children. However, children with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most of their peers.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is referenced as a spectrum because it recognizes that ASD ranges from mild to severe. This means some people may only demonstrate mild forms of autism behavior characteristics while others display extreme forms of these behaviors. Some of the disorders that are included in the ASD category are Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD) or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) as well as Autistic Disorder. Each individual displays dramatic differences on the spectrum, a saying that is often repeated is “if you’ve seen one child with autism….you’ve seen one child with autism” (Colarusso et al., 2017).
One of the biggest concerns that arises when students with ASD are placed in general education classrooms are their challenging behaviors. The smallest variations in their day can affect them and cause them to display disruptive behavior. A key to keeping behaviors under control is to keep a routine schedule in and out of the classroom. Inclusion requires general education teachers to provide resources and instruction for students spanning the entire spectrum of learning disabilities, which includes children with ASD, in their general education classrooms CITATION Fin13 l 1033 (Finch, Watson, MacGregor, & Precise, 2013). Teachers attitudes are an important issue when it comes to inclusion. Some teachers do not see students with disabilities as learners. General education teachers often do not feel that they are capable of teaching students with ASD. Many studies have shown that older teachers with more teaching experience were less accepting of students with autism and inclusion than teachers who were open-minded and adequately trained on the subject. The general education classroom will often follow the same attitudes about inclusion as the educator does. Often teachers develop these negative attitudes about students with ASD due to the emotional and behavioral characteristics that they struggle with. Many of the factors that lead toward negative attitudes of inclusion for general education teachers could be corrected with adequate training on the inclusion of this particular population CITATION Wie11 l 1033 (Wiele, 2014). Efficiency can be greatly decreased due to the attitude of the teacher. The teacher sets the tone for the classroom and when the teacher possesses an accepting attitude towards all students, the students will typically follow. Since students with ASD are becoming an increasing number of the student population they need trained and prepared educators, yet current training is lacking.
All teachers must be skilled in collaboration to meet accountability requirements for special need students (Finch et al., 2013). Inclusion training that is focused on collaboration between special education teachers and general education teachers must be inegrated into both preservice and professional development programs, as collaboration between the two is crucial. A lack of training is a primary barrier to serving ASD students in an inclusive classroom. Successful inclusion requires that personnel from general and special education collaborate as team members (Finch et al., 2013). Proper training for inclusion can build the confidence and knowledge of general educators so that they may better assist students with ASD. “Developing confidence in one’s ability to teach special learners is not only important for special educators, but also for general education teachers” (Finch et al., 2013). Currently most professionals are teaching in inclusive classrooms with very little, if any, inclusion training. However, inclusion can only happen when educators can supply students with the appropriate supports and services that they require. Inclusion is full integration into the classroom without discrimination (Finch et al., 2013).
Every child with ASD should be able to live a fulfilling life in a society that accepts them. Supporting inclusion in schools and in the community, is a big part in promoting social inclusion. One of the biggest advantages that inclusion offers is the opportunity for students with ASD to gain social skills. These students have the opportunity to create long lasting relationships that may not be possible if they were in self-contained classrooms. Creating inclusive classrooms offers diversity and enhanced social interaction for every student in the general education classroom.
When students with ASD are included in the general education classroom, it often challenges the teacher to be more thoughtful and precise about lesson planning, and the ways in which “each” student learns. Teachers must consider the modifications that will be needed and the particular strategies and skills that will need to be implemented to make each lesson a success for everyone. Mara Sapon-Shevin CITATION Sap07
l 1033 (2007) compares this process to preparing a dinner party at your house, where you want everyone to feel welcome and included. You want to be able to provide everyone with food that they will be able to eat and like. Your guest will have different dietary issues and you will need to make sure that your menu offers plenty for each guest. In order for your party to be a success and for everyone to feel that they had a great time you will also need to make sure that there are opportunities for everyone to connect and laugh with one another. During the process of planning your party you would be thinking about each individual and planning for them accordingly and meeting their needs within the inclusive group, just as you would as a teacher with students with ASD and other varying differences.
Full inclusion is beneficial to everyone, but it does raise some concerns. During tough economic times and budget cuts, it is often difficult for school systems to provide the extra instructional aides that some students with ASD require. Government budgets have created some education setbacks. Budget cuts often eliminate the extra staffing, special equipment that is needed, as well as the training that is necessary with inclusion. Some of the other concerns is that general education teachers do not have the specialized training that special education teachers have and are not as prepared to address issues that are brought to the classroom by students with ASD. General education teachers may not be as skilled in managing instructional time so that every student succeeds as well as the student with ASD who may require additional time. Although, there are some negative aspects of inclusion, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Many of these negative aspects can be alleviated by proper training and techniques. Research shows that ALL students benefit from inclusive classroom.
Multiple large-scale studies and smaller studies have documented the academic benefits of providing students with disabilities, including those with ASD, an inclusive education. Benefits includes such things as higher overall achievement, higher scores on statewide standardized tests, higher rates of attendance, and a greater likelihood of graduating with a diploma, as compared with students who were educated in segregated settings CITATION Sey17 l 1033 (Seymour, 2017). Additionally, research has found that students who had more access to the general education curriculum were more likely to achieve closer to grade level as compared with students who were not included.
Responsibility is on the general education teacher to provide accomodations within their general education classroom for students with ASD. The question is, how to include these students in general education classrooms. Teaching strategies are currently in place to aid these teachers in improving inclusion for children with ASD. “For many students with ASD, it is critical that evidence-based interventions be implemented for social, communication, and behavioral difficulties, to support and ultimately allow them access to general education settings” CITATION Sey17 l 1033 (Seymour, 2017). Although a multitude of interventions are available to address the social, communication, and behavior difficulties associated with ASD, not all are effective and/or safe. Educators have a legal and ethical obligation to provide supports that are established by research as safe and effective, otherwise known as evidence-based practices. There have been 27 evidence-based practices identified as intervention strategies for students with ASD CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). These interventions, which include prompting and time delay procedures, meet evidence-based criteria across the preschool, elementary, and middle/high school age groups and are effective for addressing social, communication, behavior, play, school-readiness, academic, motor, and adaptive skills.
Antecedent-based intervention (ABI) is a collection of practices in which environmental modifications are used to change the conditions in the setting that prompt a learner with ASD to engage in an interfering behavior. The goal of ABI is to identify the conditions in the setting that are reinforcing the interfering behavior and then to modify the environment or activity so that the environmental conditions no longer invite the interfering behavior. One example of an ABI strategy would be to alter how the instruction is being delivered. This could be accomplished by making modifications so that the learner clearly understands what is expected such as providing written rather than verbal instructions or providing instructions in a checklist rather than paragraph.
Cognitive behavior intervention (CBI) Cognitive behavioral intervention is based on the belief that behavior is mediated by cognitive processes. Learners are taught to examine their own thoughts and emotions, recognize when negative thoughts and emotions are escalating and then use strategies to change their thinking and behavior. These interventions tend to be used with students who display negative behaviors related to specific emotions or feelings, such as anger or anxiety. CBI usually involves rewarding students for the reduction of aggressive behavior and the use of problem-solving strategies. The behavioral components generally include the use of social reinforcers of praise and recognition, listening to CDs, computer time, token economy point systems, and behavioral contracts. Behavioral contracts are most frequently used to motivate students toward desirable behavioral change. Cognitive behavioral interventions are often used in conjunction with other evidence-based practices including social narratives, reinforcement, and parent-implemented intervention.
Differential reinforcement of alternative, incompatible, or other behavior (DRA/I/O) is a special application of reinforcement designed to reduce the occurrence of interfering behaviors (e.g., tantrums, aggression, self-injury, stereotypic behavior). A variety of differential reinforcement strategies can be used to increase positive behaviors and decrease interfering behaviors. Reinforcements can be provided (a) when the learner is engaging in a specific desired behavior other than the inappropriate behavior (DRA), (b) when the learner is engaging in a behavior that is physically impossible to do while exhibiting the inappropriate behavior (DRI) or (c) when the learner is not engaging in the interfering behavior (DRO) CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015).
Discrete trial teaching (DTT) is an instructional process that usually involves one on one instructional approach, one teacher and one student, that is designed to teach appropriate behavior or skills CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). DTT is usually used to teach skills in a planned, controlled, and systematic manner. This strategy is most often used when a learner needs to learn a particular skill that us best taught in small repeated steps. Each trial will consist of the teachers’ instruction, the students response, a carefully planned consequence and then followed by a pause before beginning the instructional step CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Praise or tangible rewards can be used as the reinforcer. Due to the intensive and repetitive nature of DTT, there is more evidence for using DTT with younger children (i.e., 2 to 9 years of age) CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015).
Exercise (ECE) can be used as a means to reduce problem behaviors or to increase appropriate behavior CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Research has shown that when high-functioning students diagnosed with an ASD participates in a physical activity intervention their overall academic engagement increases.
Extinction (EXT) is a strategy that involves withdrawal or termination of reinforcers of interfering behavior in order to reduce the occurrence of that behavior CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Although sometimes used as a single intervention practice, extinction often occurs in combination with functional behavior assessment, functional communication training and differential reinforcement. The extinction strategy can effectively be used with children in early childhood through middle school. An example of the use of extinction is to ignore the student if they are just trying to get attention by hollering at the teacher.
Functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a systematic collection of information about an interfering behavior designed to identify functional contingencies that support the behavior CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). FBA consists of describing the interfering or problem behavior, identifying antecedent or consequent events that control the behavior, developing a hypothesis of the behavior, and testing the hypothesis CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). FBA has shown to be most effective with elementary age learners.
Functional communication training (FCT) is a systematic practice to replace inappropriate/interfering behavior that has communication function with more appropriate and effective communicative behaviors or skills that would accomplish the same function CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). FCT usually includes FBA, DRA, and or EX. An example of using the FCT strategy would be in a case where a student is yelling out in class so that they will be sent out of the room. After the teacher has identified why the student is using this particular behavior, they can then teach a replacement behavior for that student to use and serve the same purpose, but in a more appropriate way. FCT has been found to be a more effective intervention tool for early childhood and elementary students
Modeling (MD) has received considerable attention in the research and is regarded as a treatment for communication deficits exhibited by individuals with ASD. These interventions involve a demonstration of a desired target behavior that results in imitation of the behavior by the student with ASD and that leads to the acquisition of the imitated behavior CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Modeling is often combined with other strategies such as prompting and reinforcement and may be performed live or with the use of video.
Naturalistic Intervention (NI) strategies occurs within the student’s typical setting/activities/routines. Teachers establish the interest of the student in a learning event by the arrangement of the classroom/activity/routine, providing the necessary support for the student to engage in targeted behavior, elaborate on the behavior when it occurs, and/or arrange natural consequences for the targeted behavior or skill CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Studies have shown that the NI strategy is effective for students from preschool to high school levels.
Parent-implemented intervention (PII) is an intervention practice that parents use with their child to teach positive skills and/or reduce interfering behaviors in the home or at school. Parents collaborate with teachers to develop goals and then establish a corresponding intervention plan. Parents learn how to implement the intervention through a structured training program CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). PII consists of six essential steps: (1) determine the needs of the family, (2) outline the goals, (3) develop the intervention plan, (4) train the parents, (5) implement the intervention, and (6) monitor progress. One example of PII is that parents may use the intervention to increase/improve communication skills and/or reduce interfering behaviors.
Peer-mediated instruction and intervention (PMII), is also commonly referred to as peer networks, circle of friends, buddy, peer initiation training, and peer-mediated social interactions, and it involves teaching typically developing children strategies for engaging students with ASD in positive social interactions in both teacher directed and student-initiated activities. Although the interpersonal and play skills are the most common targets of these interventions, this strategy is also used for increasing communication skills of individuals with ASD. This intervention has proven effective for preschoolers to high school students with ASD.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) strategy teaches a student to give a picture of a desired item to a communicative partner in exchange for the desired item. PECS consists of six phases which are: (1) “how to communicate, (2) distance and persistence, (3) picture discrimination, (4) sentence structure, (5) responsive requesting, and (6) commenting CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015).
Pivotal response training (PRT) focuses on targeting “pivotal” behavioral areas (i.e., motivation to engage in social communication, self-initiation, self-management, and responsiveness to multiple cues) with the goal of widespread and fluently integrated ancillary improvements CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). One primary goal of PRT is to promote generalizing and maintaining mastered skills. A successful strategy is to focus on skill deficits in the natural environment, and in as many naturally occurring opportunities as possible.
Prompting (PP) procedures include any help (i.e., verbal, gestural, or physical assistance) given to students that assist them in using a specific skill CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). These procedures are often used in conjunction with other evidence-based practices including time delay and reinforcement. Prompts are usually given before or as a student attempts to use a skill. An example of using a prompt when teaching a child to read the word “dog,” the teacher might give a hint such as “It says woof woof”.
Reinforcement (R +) is an activity, event or other circumstance occurring after a student uses a target behavior that leads to the increased occurrence of the behavior in time CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). An example of the use of reinforcement strategies would be the use of a token system.
Response interruption/redirection (RIR) is evidence-based practice used to divert the student’s attention away from interfering behaviors, predominantly those that are repetitive, stereotypical, and/or self-injurious that results in its reduction CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Examples of potential replacement items things like allowing the student to sit on an exercise ball or squeezing a stress ball.
Scripting (SC) involves presenting the student with verbal or written descriptions about a specific skill or situation that serves as a model for the student CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). The main rationale of SC is to help students with ASD to anticipate what may occur during a given activity and improve their ability to appropriately participate in the activity Scripts are usually practiced repeatedly before the skill is used in the actual situation. This strategy has been proven effective for preschoolers to high school age students.
Self-management (SM) interventions help learners with ASD learn to independently regulate their own behaviors and act appropriately. Instruction focuses on students differentiating between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, accurately monitoring and recording their own behaviors, and as a result rewarding themselves for behaving appropriately CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Goals of self-management may be responding to the teacher, initiating interaction with others, or increasing on task behavior.
Social narratives (SN) are interventions that describe social situations in some detail by highlighting relevant cues and offering examples of appropriate responding CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Social narratives are individualized to the students’ needs and are usually quite short and may include pictures or other visual aids. This strategy is used to help students adjust to changes in routine and give them the opportunity to adapt their behaviors based on the social and physical cues of a situation, or to teach specific social skills or behaviors.
Social skills training (SST) is used to teach stduents with ASD ways to appropriately interact with peers, adults and other individuals CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Social skills training is usually done in small groups of two to eight individuals with disabilities and a teacher. Most social skill trainings include instruction on basic concepts, role-playing or practice, and feedback to help students acquire and practice skills to promote positive interactions with peers CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). This intervention is usually used to target such skills as friendship, conversation, problem solving greeting, turn taking and asking for help.
Structured play groups (SPG) are interventions using small groups to teach a broad range of outcomes. SPG activities are characterized by their occurrences in a defined area and with a defined activity; the specific selection of typically developing peers to be in the group; and a clear description of theme and roles by teachers leading, prompting, or scaffolding as needed to support the students’ performance related to the goals of the activity CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). According to the evidence-based studies, this intervention has been effective for elementary age students with ASD between the ages of 6-11. SPG can be used effectively to address social, communication, behavior, play, school-readiness, and academic skills.
Task analysis (TA) is the process in which an activity or behavior is broke down into smaller, more manageable steps in order to teach the skill CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Other practices, such as reinforcement, video modeling, or time delay, should be used to facilitate learning of the smaller steps CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). As the smaller steps are mastered, the learner becomes more and more independent in his/her ability to perform the larger skill.
Technology-aided instruction and intervention (TAII) is an intervention in which technology is the central feature supporting the acquisition of a goal for the student CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). In this context, technology is defined as “any electronic item/equipment/applicator/or virtual network that is used intentionally to increase/main, and/or improve daily living, work/productivity, and recreation/leisure capabilities of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder” CITATION Odo15 l 1033 (Odom, et al., 2015).
Time delay (TD) is a practice that focuses on fading the use of prompts during instructional activities where a brief delay occurs between the opportunity to use the skill and any additional instructions or prompts CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). This practice is always used in conjunction with prompting procedures such as least-to-most prompting, simultaneous prompting, and graduated guidance. The goal of this strategy is to allow the student to respond on their own without having to have assistance and therefore resulting in less prompts needed and the student independently using the target skills.
Video modeling (VM) is a strategy in which the teacher uses video recording and display equipment to provide a visual model of the targeted behavior or skill that will assist learning or engaging in a desired behavior or skill CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015).
Visual supports (VS) are any tool presented visually that supports a student engaging in a desired behavior or skills independently of prompts CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015). Visual supports might include, pictures, written words, objects within the environment, arrangement of the environment or visual boundaries, schedules, maps, labels, organization systems, timelines, and scripts CITATION Won15 l 1033 (Wong, et al., 2015).
Inclusion means that all students, regardless of their conditions or disabilities have the right to be in a general education classroom and all services must be provided to that child. The success of inclusion depends largely upon the availability and quality of support services that are provided to students with ASD. Attitudes of administration and teachers are also both very important as well as training and equipping teachers with the necessary skills and resources to ensure meaningful outcomes for students with ASD in inclusive classrooms. Collaboration between general educators, special educators, and support personnel is fundamental to the successful inclusion of students with ASD in the general education classroom.
When evidence-based strategies are used in inclusive classrooms and included in daily lesson planning, teachers may see greater success, better classroom behavior and less decisions that are required to be made by “shooting from the hip”. With the use of the appropriate interventions discussed teachers should see an increase in engagement, learning, and work competition and overall greater academic achievement.
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