Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are included and thus expected to participate in mainstream schools. However, ASC are characterized by poor communication and difficulties in understanding social information; factors likely to have negative influences on participation. Hence, this thesis studied body functions hypothesized to affect social interaction and both perceived and observed participation of students with ASC in mainstream schools.
Case-control studies were conducted to explore visual strategies used for face identification and required for recognition of facially expressed emotions in adults with ASC. Consistency of these visual strategies was tested in static and interactive dynamic conditions. A systematic review of the literature explored parents’ perceptions of factors contributing to inclusive school settings for their children with ASC. Questionnaires were used to investigate perceived participation in students with ASC and their classmates. Correlations between activities the students wanted to do and reported to participate in were identified. Teachers’ accuracy in rating their students with ASCs’ perception of participation was investigated. Furthermore, correlations between the accuracy of teachers’ ratings and the teachers’ self-reported professional experience, support and personal interest were examined. Correlations between teachers’ ratings and their reported classroom actions were also analysed. The frequency and level of engagement in social interactions of students with ASC and their classmates were also observed. Correlations between observed frequencies and self-rated levels of social interactions were explored.
The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health-Version for Children and Youth (ICF-CY) has been used as a structural framework, since ICF-CY enables complex information to be ordered and possible interactions between aspects in different components and factors to be identified. In regard to Body Functioning, difficulties identifying faces and recognizing basic facially expressed emotions in adults with ASC were established. The visual strategies displayed a high stability across stimuli conditions. Teachers’ knowledge about their students with ASC, in addition to their ability to implement ASCspecific teaching strategies, was emphasized as enhancing Environmental Factors for participation. Students with ASC reported less participation and fewer social interactions than their classmates, which could be interpreted as activity limitations and participation restrictions. However, in regard to some activities, they may have participated to the extent they wanted to. Compared with classmates, observations of students with ASC showed that they participated less frequently in social interactions, but were not less involved when they actually did. No correlations were found between perceived participation and observed social interactions in students with ASC.
Teachers rated their students with ASCs’ perceived participation with good precision. Their understanding of the students with ASCs’ perception correlated with activities to improve the attitudes of classmates and adaptation of tasks. No such correlations were found in regard to reported activities aimed at enhancing social relations.
The ability to process faces is usually well established in adults. Poor face processing can impact social functioning and the difficulties in face processing found in adults with ASC are probably the result of
developmental deviations during childhood. Therefore, monitoring and assessing face processing abilities in students with ASC is important, in order to tailor interventions that aim to enhance participation in the social environment of mainstream schools.
Since participation is a complex construct, interventions need to be complex, as well. In order to facilitate positive peer relations, teachers need to provide Activities adapted to the interests and social abilities of the students with ASC, and in which students with and without ASC can experience positive interactions. This requires that teachers assess all aspects that can affect Participation, including Environmental Factors, and the student’s functioning in regard to Activities and Body Functions. To enhance social interactions, interventions must be planned based on these assessments. If needed, interventions may require teaching students with ASC visual strategies, in order to enhance face processing and thereby the ability to recognize faces and facially expressed emotions. Observations together with self-reported information regarding the students’ preferences and their involvement constitute a basis for the planning and evaluating of such interventions. To include self-determination aspects could allow for possible interventions to be tailored in line with the students’ perceived needs and their own wishes, rather than primarily meeting a standard set by a control group. However, good insight into the students’ perception of Participation may not be enough. In order to adapt teaching instructions, communication and activities teachers also need ASC specific knowledge.
Jönköping: School of Education and Communication , 2013. , 175 p.
2013-01-23, Hb116, School of Education and Communication, University Campus Gjuterigatan 5 553 18, Jönköping, 13:15 (Swedish)