Autism is a neural disorder identified through the problems in socialization, communication and typecasting characters (Church 2009). Church (2009) identified the three disorders associated with autism which are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. In the United States, 2% of children had been diagnosed with ASD in the year of 2012, which was higher than 1.1% level in 2008 (Rosenblatt, 2013).
Globally, church articulates that there is an average of 1% of children with autism. This implies that autism poses threats and challenges to the development and learning of children. Autism affects the processing of information through disrupting the connection and organization of the nerve components (Church 2009). This leads to the communication difficulties, impaired social interaction and the repetition feature. The affected individuals are known to; avoid eye contact, pay less attention, respond abnormally through stammering conversations, and fail to reveal their emotion appropriately.
Essentially, these behaviors among others cause the children with autism to experience various challenges when learning and living. This leads to a reduced competence in social skill and cognitive performance. However, strategies have been established to assist the affected children through maximizing their potential. One strategy introduced to promote this noble idea is inclusion in the education systems. According to DeVore and Russell (2007), inclusion as an educational approach that pays attention to maximal interaction between the disabled and non-disabled students during their learning periods.
Bowe (2005) indicated there are partial/regular inclusion and full inclusion. The full inclusion allows the children with autism to be taught together with others without special needs while regular inclusion provides instances of exclusive instructions. Legal requirements from various organizations including UNESCO and UN among others encourage inclusion in all possible cases. Essentially, adverse cases of autism preventing children to attend schools are rare as indicated by Bowe (2005). In this regard, education institutions allowing inclusion are more welcoming to all children since they do not discriminate. However, the controversy experienced between researchers regarding the effects of inclusion on the children with autism and those without is still alarming.
Normalization theory advocates for the creation, support, and defense of the social attributes of the individuals with disabilities. Subsequently, an evaluation to investigate the effects of inclusion on autistic children is vital in order to determine its effectiveness and participation in fulfilling this theory. The results of this evaluation will help in understanding the challenging experiences met by the children during their studies. Moreover, the educators and parents will understand the conditions of these children and empathize with them in order to assist them in developing cognitive skills.
Various questions will be addressed in this research. These questions are: what are the developmental challenges experienced by autistic children? How does autism affect the social development of children? How does inclusion positively impact autistic children? What are the significances of the least restrictive environment for autistic children? Is full/absolute inclusion possible? In what ways does inclusion impact autistic children?
Inclusion offers autistic children various attributes in the development such as freedom, interactions, knowledge sharing, confidence, attitude and the learning environments. Each of these attributes participates in development of various abilities in children with autism. When these are applied together, they allow children to develop intellectually as well as establish social relationships within their surroundings.
Children with autism can use devices made to facilitate their communication with other people. However, Chung, Carter, and Sisco (2012) performed a research to evaluate the socialization of learners with autism under inclusion. These researchers investigated sixteen learners applying the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in a category of autistic students. In this research, the 16 students using AAC were taught at the special classes of autism where they created conversation with the peers and reported to the people controlling the research. Nevertheless, individuals applying AAC had few instances of starting interactions.
The researchers identified that few instances of interactions were initiated by the autistic children who were dependent on facial expressions and gestures when responding to peers rather than the AAC devices. Consequently, the children with autism heavily rely on facial expressions and gestures during their learning processes. This implies that the inclusion model might demand teacher to apply extra attentions to the children.
The appropriateness of inclusion in delivering proper care to autistic children is vital to guide the future progress (Kirk & Gallagher, 1997). In this regard, Foster and Pearson (2012) investigated the understanding of learners with autism through studying 484 individuals affected by autism and evaluating their progress after completing studies in the inclusion model. The results pointed out that 82 learners did not go to college as compared to 215 others who had not used the model. The researchers concluded that there was no systematic proof showing that inclusion improves autistic individuals’ performance in the academic area.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder should be known early in life to facilitate proper channels of education including inclusion strategies. For this reason, Kumar, Karmakar, and Mohanan (2014) evaluated the regression of language in victims of ASD when compared to the non-autistic learners. Indeed, the study was facilitated through the use of questionnaires after 5 clinical psychologists approved the 16 skills for assessment. The sample population was comprised of 22 males and 8 females with the autism disorder. The researchers collected the required information through questionnaires and a regression screening tool (Kumar, Karmakar, & Mohanan, 2014).
They noted considerable regression with an average regression of 20.19 months. In this light, it was concluded that inclusion of regression screening tools could provide the clinicians a strategy to know the weakening of autistic children at a tender age of 21 months in order to implement the proper teaching methods (Kumar, Karmakar, & Mohanan, 2014).
Negative Impacts of Inclusion on Regular Learners
There are impacts that appear in the effective learning processes for non-disabled learners during inclusion. For instance, Reiter and Vitany (2010) researched about the effects of inclusion on the regular learners’ burnout, mind-set and quality of intercession. Specifically, the research methods incorporated the use of 12 boys and 11 girls at the ages of 9 and 10 and inclusive education models. Moreover, the students were involved in other school life activities and mingled between classes of the autistic children and the regular classes. In conclusion, the end remark from this research indicated that interventions did not prove to be a way of handling all learners with autism.
Other negativities of inclusion were identified by Dyson (2005) who stated that there were some limits when fulfilling the principle of the least restrictive environment (LRE) in regard to children with autism. In a statement, Dyson pointed out that the children could make great achievements when treated in an exclusive manner. For instance, children with high degrees of autism receive close and special lessons that are not necessary for the non-disabled learners (Hoffmeister, 1996). In this case, the special education has merits over inclusion and therefore prevents the achievement of full inclusion because it is impossible to teach all students similarly.
The principle of LRE allows exclusion in cases where the learner cannot learn under the prevailing conditions due to his/her condition (Dyson 2005). Ideally, special education applies specialized instructions to the learners according to their needs. In this light, the application of inclusion has varying effects to autistic children depending on the condition of the disorder where most are positive and some pose challenges.
Cassady (2011) evaluated the perspectives of educators in regard to the inclusive education for learners with autism. Cassady postulated that teachers were not satisfied with the inclusion model due to learners’ antisocialism behavior variances and unequal perceptions. The researcher used snowball technique to survey 25 teachers using interviews and questionnaires, and identified their eagerness to welcome learners with autism in classes. The researcher concluded that typical characters during class time shifted the taste of educators from inclusion. It suggested that the features of children with and without autism affected the willingness of educators to teach them together. However, the link between inclusion of autistic children and others with EBD depicted that participants prefered autistic learners than the EBD ones.
Positive Effects of Inclusion
According to Mesibov and Shea (1996), inclusion has risen as a topic of argument where people have opinions and suggestions. For instance, Cassady (2011) tries to show that the educators are not satisfied with inclusion of learners because it has low significance. Similarly, Foster and Pearson stated that inclusion had no improvement to the learners. Earlier studies indicated that people with autism had been denied the privileges of enjoying a free and fair education together with the non-disabled persons. For example, DeVore and Russell (2007) supported this idea by stating that the learners faced humiliations, injustices, and infanticide before the rise of equality and establishment of a learning process to educate them. On the other hand, Simpson and Sasso (1992) argued that these vices created an attention where organizations and governments noted the needs of the children with autism.
Essentially, the autistic children gain from attending classes together with other learners. Ingersoll and Lalonde (2010) stated that inclusion provided an environment with adequate resources for socialization that assists in modifying the abilities of the child. These abilities start through the fundamental interactive skills described by Chung, Carter and Sisco (2012). When compared to the restrictive special education system that prevents children to experience the interaction with other people, inclusion allows them to learn about other people and how to interact with them. According to Denning (2007), the future behaviors of the autistic children are determined by the environment in which they interact.
These researchers noted that individuals with autism could be antisocial due to the lack of practical and unrestricted environment. On the other hand, they could develop personal skills to help him/her communicate with other people. These personal skills motivate children to accept their uniqueness and continue to fulfill their desires in life. It is important to note that schools play fundamental roles in shaping the behaviors and social skills of children. Special education does not offer generalizations that enhance privacy of the disorder at most instances. Educators avoid the trouble of recognizing autism by treating all learners equally without paying attentions to the disorder (Simpson & Sasso, 1992). Therefore, the humiliation coming with special treatment and incapability could be avoided through generalizations (DeVore & Russell, 2007; Simpson & Sasso, 1992).
Least Restrictive Environment
Autism is a developmental hindrance that influences the perception of the affected learners in the class and affects the educational performances of the regular pupils (Mesibov & Shea, 1996). Therefore, these individuals require care and adequate consideration in education. There are various acts and principles initiated to control the education of autistic children. For instance, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was implemented to ensure that learners with special needs will receive instructions to the highest possible level in the inclusion (DeVore & Russell, 2007). In response to this act, the teachers have to consider incorporating these pupils in their regular classes which is currently against their will according to Cassady (2011).
This implied that there would be individualized instructions within the general classes where some learners were attended at a personal level. DeVore and Russell (2007) performed a depth analysis to suggest that inclusion must be encouraged when applicable. These authors aimed to identify the bases used by the inclusion team when considering 3-4 years-old pupils in the inclusive setting. After researching through cooperative inquiry method for 2 years, they concluded that the autistic children needed the opportunity to interact with their age mates to the maximum possible level. However, the viability of this practice was questionable under the research of Chung, Carter and Sisco (2012) which showed that children with autism had few cases of initiating communication with other learners.
Socialization in an Inclusive Setting
After performing a valid research, Hourigan and Hourigan (2009) concluded that interaction is the main challenge affecting autistic children due to the repetitions and delays encountered when speaking and/or perceiving information. The flow of dialogue conversations is affected adversely, and the opponents might avoid the interactions with the affected individuals. In this light, Ingersoll and Lalonde (2010) provided results of this rejection by pointing out that the autistic children experience adverse isolation from other students who do not have the disability. Essentially, the accurate interpretation of the body language and facial expression is not achieved fast in order to provide an immediate response.
Church (2009) explained that this was due to problems experienced when interpreting sounds, gestures, and expressions which cause failures in understanding the feelings of other people. A well-managed and collaborated learning environment assists the learners to develop adequate skills and boost personal confidence unlike in the special education where confidence was enhanced through motivation (Dee, 1998). These researchers came to an agreement that the lack of socialization was a problem for autistic children and could be minimized through inclusion.
Apart from the educational assistances, the inclusion facilitates reduction and eradication of physical and mental injuries arising from daily chores/activities (Curtin & Clarke, 2005). The characters of the children with autism differ according to their needs and environmental influences. For instance, the requirements of an autistic child might be social intervention while that of another individual is distinct. The interventions applied by the educators must, therefore, consider these differences because some intervention may not yield any outcomes.
Interventions in the Context of Inclusion
Mesibov and Shea (1996) indicated that once autistic children are included in the general classes, there are various changes that should occur in the model of instructions. However, the efficacy of the adopted system is unable to incorporate the learners effectively where the educators are ignorant about the necessity of the system changes. The children with autism fail to receive ample interaction skills due to the lack of cooperation. On this title, the paragraphs will explain how autistic children are impacted by inclusion to cover the double edge of the topic.
Games play vital roles in determining the social skills of both nondisabled and disabled children (Mesibov & Shea, 1996). Inclusion allows the learners to live together without restriction and creates a space to meet many children to interact and play with. When the learners are involved in active interaction with other players of the same age group, they are motivated to enjoy and avoid the thought of the challenges facing them. Moreover, it boosts the morale of the pupils, enables them to identify their talents, and centers interaction and fun.
Bellini, Peters, Benner and Hopf (2007) stated that the use of stories was a common intervention technique for the persons with autism. The stories were used to minimize the problems encountered by autistic children during communication. They did not involve dialogue that might trouble the child when responding. Today, they are used to teach about problems that children with autism experience such as excitements. For instance, the story informs the child that there is nothing wrong with being excited to prevent an internal humiliation and personal discomfort of his/her actions. Moreover, the stories take place of the discomforting dialogues that the children cannot handle. Mesibov and Shea (1996) argued that the stories educate the children and enable them to visualize future desire on what they to do. The authors proved that the stories were told in the general classes and homes where the pupils with autism were advised on how to respond by setting principles of communication.
Imitation and Routines
Inclusion allows the autistic children to interact with the age mates where the standard behaviors are retrieved and imitated (Mesibov & Shea, 1996). Learners with autism are taught to imitate and follow the other pupils where they interact through imitated behaviors. Consequently, the learner practices the actions of the other pupils in the inclusive education. This implies that the learners with autism will attain adequate skills to react to the actions of other people. According to Ingersoll and Lalonde (2010), when learning the imitation skills, other instructors imitate the actions of the learners.
For instance, an individual with autism is making a small hole using a pen, the instructor should use a pen to make a similar hole. In case the learner changed the pen and started using a stick, then the instructor also shifts immediately and starts using a stick. These actions are enhanced with sentences from the instructor describing what the learner is doing until the child perceives the imitation skills. Otherwise, children experience a schedule for some time until they understand such routines as in the general classes.
Implications and Conclusions
Teachers and healthcare providers will have challenges when initiating responses to all issues they might require from the individuals affected. It is also possible that inclusion will improve the learning capabilities of autistic children and therefore the teachers will be able to teach them well. However, the problem will trigger the professionals to research, find better solutions, and answer various issues related to autism. The recent developments in inclusion show that there is hope for development of it development in the future. This, therefore, implies that the impacts of inclusion on autistic children will be regulated.
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