Working with students with special needs can be one of the greatest challenges for a teacher. These students are wonderful individuals, but many teacher preparation programs fall short of helping teachers be fully equipped to provide all of the resources necessary for students with special needs. As inclusion models become more common in public and private schools, general education teachers are not always prepared for the accommodations and modifications that must be made to help these students succeed academically as well as socially. In my Educating Exceptional Students course, we were asked to do a peer review article on a topic of our choosing. I felt that, since I find autism to be a fascinating disorder and a majority of the focus of inclusion models for students with autism is social inclusion, it would be interesting to look into an article that investigates how students viewed their peers with autism.
The article by Boutot and Bryant (2005) was, essentially, a survey to determine which students belonged to social groups, which students were well-known, and which students other students wanted to spend time. According to their very limited findings, “Students with autism in inclusive classrooms are as likely as their peers to be chosen for an activity…have the same amount of visibility…[and] be members of a very definite group” (Boutot and Bryant, 2005, p. 20). The most interesting part of the article I found, though, was in the Observational Findings section. The authors stated that two students who had been particularly successful were in general education classrooms that had underwent a training session for the addition of a student with autism. As a teacher, this helps me understand the critical role I play in that I can help my students be better prepared for what to expect when there are students with special needs in the classroom and know how to include them socially. As opposed to continue focusing on simply how peers view with students with autism, I will be writing my next paper for this course on the steps I can take as a teacher that can help students appreciate and accept the differences that make them unique.
Boutot, E. A. & Bryant, D. P. (2005). Social integration of students with autism in inclusive settings. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 40(1) 14-23.