Inclusion as Social Practice: Views of Children with Autism



This study illuminates the social realities of inclusion of 16 high functioning children with autism (HFA) in public schools in the United States. The study suggests that the practice of inclusion rests primarily on unaffected schoolmates rather than teachers, who typically are occupied monitoring academic progress and disciplinary transgressions across a range of children. Utilizing ethnographic observations and video recordings of quotidian classroom and playground activities, the analysis elucidates how classmates employ a range of positive and negative inclusion practices that either integrate or distance autistic children. Ethnographic observations of the study population indicate that the children whose diagnosis was fully disclosed enjoyed more consistent social support in the classroom and on the school playground. The study further suggests that high functioning children with autism exhibit a range of reactions to negative inclusion practices such as rejection and scorn. Such reactions include oblivion, immediate behavioral response, and emotionally charged accounts of disturbing school incidents shared after-the-fact with family members. Significantly, these observations indicate that HFA children can be cognizant of and distressed by others’ derisive stances and acts, despite symptomatic difficulties in interpreting others’ intentions and feelings.