International Meeting for Autism Research: Development of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders In Special Education

Development of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders In Special Education

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
11:00 AM
R. Stoutjesdijk, E. M. Scholte and H. Swaab, Clinical Child and Adolescent Studies, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
Background: Due to impairments specific for their disorder, children with ASD often have to rely on special educational services in either an inclusive or a segregated setting. The frequency of higher functioning children with ASD who use special educational support is increasing to date, and severe emotional and behavioral difficulties along with academic underachievement within this population are reported. To optimize educational services for these children, it is important to assess what developmental and academic progress is made within special educational settings, and whether there are differences in progress between children placed in inclusive versus segregated settings. In any case, studies concerning developmental gains in special education (across settings) of children with ASD in general are rare. Because of the limited knowledge about the development of children with ASD in special educational settings, decisions concerning educational placement and additional interventions can not be made on sufficient grounds.

Objectives: To determine if segregated and inclusive special educational settings offer higher functioning children with ASD a prospect of progressive behavioral and academic development.

Methods: Sixty-two higher functioning (IQ > 85) children with ASD (Mage = 9.6 years) were followed during one year of special education. In order to be included in the sample, children had to be formally diagnosed with ASD according to the DSM-IV criteria by a qualified clinician and also had to score in the clinical range on the subscale ‘autistic traits’ of the Social Emotional Questionnaire (SEQ). Within this sample, 38 children were placed in separated facilities for special education (Special School) and 24 children received special education in regular classrooms for most of the school day (Inclusive Education). Progress in children’s functioning was evaluated by pre- and post-assessments. The Dutch version of the Teacher’s Report Form (TRF) was used to obtain problem behavior assessed by the child’s teacher. Academic performance on text reading accuracy, reading comprehension, math and spelling was measured by means of test methods used by the Dutch government to assess educational progress annually. GLM repeated measures were used to examine progress and group differences.

Results: Preliminary analyses show that within the total sample significant developmental progress within one year has been made concerning autistic symptoms, social problems, thought problems, attention problems, internalizing problems, and total problem behavior (p < .05). Between group differences on these variables were found for internalizing problems (Special School showed more progress than Inclusive Education), social problems, and total problem behavior (Inclusive Education showed more progress on these variables than Special School). Regarding academic performance significant progress was made within the total sample for all subjects (p < .01). No significant differences between groups were found.

Conclusions: The findings show that within both educational settings improvement on a behavioral and academic level is achieved, but they also suggest that inclusive education offers a better environment for higher functioning children with ASD to improve their social functioning, whereas separated facilities are more capable of minimizing internalizing problem behavior. Implications of these findings concerning educational placement will be discussed and suggestions for further research will be presented.


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