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Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Published: Tue, 27 Feb 2018

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine attitudes towards inclusion of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and self-efficacy beliefs of preservice teachers. Background factors will be explored in relation to both attitudes towards inclusion and self efficacy beliefs. ASDs are becoming the fastest growing developmental disabilities with 1 out of every 150 births being diagnosed as having one of these disorders.

ASDs are typically defined as developmental disorders and can range in symptoms from mild to severe. They are identified by abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication combined with a restricted repertoire of activities and interests. As a result, more children with ASDs are in need of educational services. Preservice teachers will be surveyed for their level of efficacy as well as attitudes towards inclusion of children with autism spectrum disorders.

Preservice Teachers’ Efficacy: A Correlate of Attitudes towards Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Chapter 1: Introduction

This study will focus on self-efficacy beliefs preservice teachers’ and their attitudes towards inclusion of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Historically, inclusion studies have broadly focused on students with general disabilities without differentiation of the 13 disability categories as listed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA).

It is necessary to briefly address special education law in order to understand how students with exceptionalities are placed and serviced within the education system (either in special education, general education, or a combination of classes). IDEA is the federal legislation that regulates the education of students with disabilities (Woolfolk, 2010). It was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities had the same opportunity as students without disabilities (Woolfolk, 2010).

The law has seen many revisions throughout the years. The most recent amendments to IDEA were passed by Congress in December 2004. The final regulations were published in August 2006 and termed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA 2004) (Public Law No. 108-446). IDEIA 2004 guides how states and school districts identify and provide special education and related services to children with disabilities (http://www.nichcy.org/idea.htm). IDEIA 2004 specifically addresses where students with disabilities should be educated and also requires schools to provide a free and appropriate education (FAPE) for all students (Woolfolk, 2010).

Although the law does not specifically use the terminology inclusion, it does use the term least restrictive environment (LRE) when speaking of placement for students with disabilities (Inzano, 1999). The law regarding placing students within the LRE has generated many questions as to exactly what constitutes an LRE.

According to the law, in an LRE, the student is to be placed with non-disabled peers as much as appropriate throughout the school day (IDEIA, 2004). In addition, the student can only be separated from nondisabled peers if the nature or severity of their disability impedes upon their education (IDEIA, 2004; http://www.findcounseling.com/journal/sped/least.html). Based upon this law, there appears to be a push to teach children with disabilities within the regular education classrooms (Villa, Thousand, Nevin, & Liston, 2005 & Liston, 2005). As a result of this, there will be a paradigm shift moving away from segregation to integration where students with and without disabilities will be taught together (Giddens, 2001).

Inclusive education is identified by the integration of all students, including those with disabilities, into the general education classroom (Avramidis & Norwich 2002; Woolfolk, 2010). Inclusion is often confused with the notion of mainstreaming. Schnorr (1990) indicated that mainstreaming and inclusion each deal with students with disabilities in the regular classrooms, the responsibilities of the general education teacher is different for both. In mainstreaming, the regular class teacher is responsible for some of the instruction of the student with exceptionalities while the special education teacher is primarily responsible for the student’s instruction (Lipsky & Gartner, 1989).

This is quite different than inclusion. Through inclusion, the regular class teacher is responsible for nearly all of the instruction of the student with special needs. The special education teacher serves as a support to the regular education teacher (Salisbury et al., 1995). For the purposes of this study, inclusion will be defined as full term placement in mainstream general education classes with appropriate special education support services.

By studying disability categories under a broad umbrella, it is difficult to differentiate attitudes towards inclusion of specific disability categories. Inclusion of students based on specific disability categories is limited and has not been fully analyzed in current research studies. Research has largely focused on teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with learning disabilities (Avramidis, Bayliss, et al 2000; Bender, Vail, et al, 1995; Bradshaw & Mundia 2006; Buell, Hallam, et al 1999; Burke & Sutherland 2004; Campbell, Gilmore et al 2003; Clough & Lindsay 1991; Elhoweris & Alsheikh 2006; Hammond & Ingalls 2003; Jobe, Rust, et al. 1996; Kadell & Wiebe 2001; Kalyva, Gojkovic, et al 2007; Kwapy 2004; Reasons 2005; Romer 2004; Ross-Hill 2007; Sebesta 2002; Shade & Stewart 2001; Walpole 2006).

There have been some studies focusing on emotional and behavioral difficulties within the general education classrooms (Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden 2000; Clough & Lindsay 1991; Hastings & Oakford 2003; Soodak et al. 1998; Stoiber et al. 1998); cognitive impairments (Center & Ward 1987; Thomas 1985), and mild physical disabilities (Center & Ward 1987; Forlin 1995). The remaining special education categories have not been the focus of much research (Autism Spectrum Disorder, Blind or Low Vision; Deaf or Hard of hearing; Deaf-Blind; Developmentally Delayed; Language or Speech impairment; Multiple Disabilities; Other health impairment; Orthopedic impairment; and Traumatic brain injury). This study will investigate the attitudes of pre-service teachers toward inclusion of students with ASDs.

ASDs fall within the Pervasive Developmental Disorders based upon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM-IV, p. 14; 2005). The terms ASDs and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) are often used synonymously (Pieranagelo & Giuliani, 2007). Pervasive Developmental Disorder is a general term that refers to a spectrum of disorders that differ with respect to the number and type of symptoms or age of onset (DSM-IV, pg. 69). Pervasive Developmental Disorders include Autistic Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DSM-IV, p. 14; 2005). ASDs are typically defined as developmental disorders in which behavior characteristics range in syndrome expression and the symptoms change as the child develops on a continuum from mild to severe (Volkmar, Paul, Klin, & Cohen, 2005). “They are typically characterized by severe and pervasive impairment in several areas of development that include reciprocal and social interaction skills, communication skills, or the presence of stereotyped behavior, interests, and activities”(DSM-IV, pg 69; 2005).

Four million children are born in the United States every year and of these four million children; 560,000 individuals between the ages of 0-21 have an ASD (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm). Based on prevalence statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2007, one out of every 150 children in the United States has autism (http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_whatis_factsstats). Due to the increase in diagnosis of ASDs, more children are in need of specialized education programs. In 2006, the CDC reported 484,299 individuals between the ages 3 through 21 received services under the ‘autism’ classification for special education services (https://www.ideadata.org/tables30th/ar_1-3.htm).

Additional data from the CDC reported the state of Indiana serviced 159,679 students under IDEA in 2006 between the ages of 6 and 21. Of these students, 7,391 were identified as having an ASD (https://www.ideadata.org/tables30th/ar_1-3.htm). Illinois reported serving 289,611 students under IDEA in 2006 between the ages of 6 and 21. Of these students, 9,398 students were identified as having an ASD (https://www.ideadata.org/tables30th/ar_1-3.htm). Michigan reported serving 217,673 under IDEA in 2006 between the ages of 6 and 21. Of these students, 9,723 were identified as having an ASD (https://www.ideadata.org/tables30th/ar_1-3.htm).

The needs of students with ASDs vary and should be identified and addressed within their educational programming. As stated earlier, ASDs are a group of developmental disabilities that are defined by significant impairments in social interaction, communication, and unusual behaviors (DSM-IV, pg. 69). This is of particular concern when looking at the best learning environment for students with ASDs. Researchers and educators agree that children with ASDs benefit from early intervention services (National Research Council, 2001; Rapin, 1997; Rogers, 1996; Strain, Wolery & Izeman, 1998). It has been found to be beneficial to place students with ASDs in the general education classroom so they have early interventions as well as appropriate role models of social skills (Klinger & Dawson, 2005).

At the same time, this presents a problem because students with ASDs are often not accepted into the general education class. Rejection increases with the students’ age and severity of their symptoms which increases their tendency to become socially isolated (Burack, Root, & Zigler, 1997 as cited in Volkmar, Paul, Klin, Cohen, 2005). Parents, teachers, and students need to work together to determine which educational services are needed and specifically, to afford them with the greatest possibilities for future transitions (Bock & Myles, 1999; Crowley, 2000; Bowe, 2005 as cited in Volkmar, Paul, Klin, Cohen, 2005). Educational placement options for students with ASDs need to be a place where they receive the most benefit as well as keeping in accordance with the law requiring LRE.

The increase of students with special needs within general education classrooms has spurred changes in attitudes of teachers, parents, and students regarding the appropriate placement for students with disabilities to receive an education. Research has shown that teacher attitudes towards inclusion have a significant impact upon whether or not inclusion is a success or failure within the classroom (Avramidis & Norwich 2002; Bacon & Schultz 1991; Barton, 1992; Barton & Wiczenski 1993; Bishop, 1986; Carroll, Forlin, & Jobling 2003; Chow & Winzer, 1992; Coates, 1989; Cook, 2001; Cook, Semmel, & Gerber 1999; Good & Brophy 1997; Hannah & Pliner, 1983; Hayes & Gunn, 1988; Idol, Nevin & Paolucci-Whitcomb 1994; Roa & Lim, 1999; Salend 2001; Schumm et al. 1994; Semmel, Abernathy, Butera, & Lesar, 1991; Shade & Stewart, 2000; Wiczenski, 1993; Van Reusen, Shoho, & Barker 2001; William & Algozine, 1977; Wood, 1989). Attitude research pertaining to inclusion of students with disabilities has provided widely varied results (Bennett et al, 1997; Garriott, Miller, & Snyder, 2003; Leyser & Tappendorf, 2001; Rea et al. 2002; Shier, 2002).

Professional groups vary considerably in their perceptions of which children are most likely to be successful with the inclusion process (Bochner & Pieterse 1989). There are educators who support the inclusion of students with disabilities and indicate it has positive benefits for students (Avramidis et al, 2000; Chalmers, 1991; Frederickson, Dunsmuir, Lang & Monsen 2004; Leyser & Tappendorf 2001; Rodgers, 1987; Rojewski & Pollard, 1993; Ward et al, 1994; Villa et al, 1996; York, Vandercook, MacDonald, Heise-Neff & Caughey, 1992).

If teachers’ attitudes toward inclusion are positive, then the experience of their students will also be positive (Anderson, Chitwood, & Hayden 1997; Alexander & Strain, 1978). Conversely, many educators are not as accepting of inclusion and hold negative attitudes towards inclusion (Alghazo, Dodeen, & Algaryouti, 2003; Berryman, 1989; Bradshaw, 2004; Buell, Hallam, & Gamel-McCormick, 1999; Center & Ward, 1987; Coates, 1989; D’Alonzo, Giordano & Cross, 1996; D’Alonzo & Ledon 1992; Dixon, 1999; Forlin, Douglas, & Hattie, 1996; Gersten, Walker & Darch, 1988; Hammond & Ingalls 2003; Hayes & Gunn, 1988; Horne & Ricciardo, 1988; Jamieson, 1984; Jobe, Rust, & Brissie, 1996; Larrivee & Cook, 1979; Leyser & Tappendorf, 2001; Luseno, 2000; Minke et al, 1996; Murphy, 1996; Reiter et al, 1998; Schumm & Vaughn 1991; Semmel et al, 1991; Thomas, 1985; Vaughn, Schumm, Jallad, Slusher & Saumell, 1996). If the teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion are negative, then the experience of their students will be unsuccessful (Anderson, Chitwood, & Hayden 1997; Alexander & Strain, 1978). Forlin et al (1999) indicated that teachers’ attitudes towards individuals with disabilities suggest that negative attitudes lead to lower expectations of that student.

Research has also shown teachers attitudes toward inclusion were strongly influenced by the nature of the student’s disabilities (Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2000; Bradshaw and Mundia 2006; Center & Ward, 1987; Dean, Elrod & Blackbourn, 1999; Jobe, Rust & Brissie, 1996; Mak, 2003; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Soodak, Podell, & Lehman, 1998). Several studies have shown that specific disability areas negatively affected teacher attitudes towards inclusion. Thomas (1985) studied teachers in England and found they opposed integration of students with intellectual difficulties. This opposition has been replicated in several subsequent studies (Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2000; Center & Ward, 1987; Clough and Lindsay, 1991; Forlin, 1995; Hayes & Gunn, 1988; Kwapy, 2004; Soodak et al., 1998; Stoiber et al., 1998). Research also shows that teachers had difficulty with children who had emotional and behavioral difficulties (Avramidis et al, 2000; Bowman, 1986; Clough & Lindsay, 1991; Forlin, 1995; Hastings & Oakford, 2003; Hayes & Gunn, 1988; Heflin & Bullock, 1999; Kwapy, 2004; Soodak et al., 1998; Stoiber et al, 1998).

Center and Ward (1987) found that teachers within their research study were reluctant to include students with more severe physical disabilities or students with intellectual disabilities; however, they were willing to accept the inclusion of students with mild physical disabilities. As a result of the mixed results of research on inclusion, it is important to identify attitudes towards inclusion of students, specifically with ASDs, within the general education classroom.

To date, there has been a lack of research on ASDs and teacher attitudes towards inclusion. With the movement within the educational system to integrate all students with disabilities into regular education classrooms, it is going to be important to evaluate teacher attitudes toward inclusion of students with ASDs as the prevalence rate for this specific disability is on the rise.

Multiple factors have been found to affect teachers’ attitudes (Salend & Duhaney, 1999). These factors primarily relate to the child, teacher, and school. Several factors seem to consistently arise in research regarding attitudes towards inclusion of students with disabilities and include teacher efficacy, the type of disability, and the individual’s teacher preparation program. These areas will be the focus of this research study.

Teacher efficacy has been a focus in many research studies (Allinder, 1994; Allinder, 1995; Ashton, 1984; Ashton & Webb, 1986; Brownell & Pajares, 1999; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Pajares, 1992; Soodak, Podell & Lehman, 1998). Teacher efficacy is a teacher’s individual beliefs in their capabilities to reach all of their students, regardless of disability and teach all types of students (Armor et al., 1976; Ashton, 1984; Ashton & Webb; 1986; Berman & McLaughlin, 1977; Coladarci & Breton, 1997; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk-Hoy, & Hoy, 1998; Woolfolk, 2010). Many studies have noted that a teacher’s sense of efficacy can have a direct positive affect on student achievement (Anderson, Greene, & Loewen, 1988; Ashton, 1984; Midgley, Feldlaufer, & Eccles, 1989; Woolfolk, 2010) and is a principal factor impacting classroom effectiveness (Allinder, 1993; Ashton & Webb, 1986; Brownell & Pajares, 1999; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; Pajares, 1992).

There has been limited research as to the effect teacher efficacy has upon the students with ASDs. Research on general disability areas has shown that as a teacher’s personal efficacy increases, they become less anxious about including students with disabilities into their classrooms (Allinder, 1994; Soodak, Podell & Lehman, 1998). Other research studies have found that teachers often lack confidence in their instructional skills when dealing with a student with a disability (Buell, Hallam, & Gamel-McCormick, 1999; Center & Ward 1987) thus decreasing their self efficacy.

By identifying links between teacher efficacy and teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs; more information can be provided to teachers to help them feel confident as well as successful in teaching students with ASDs within their classrooms.

Another factor affecting teacher attitudes towards inclusion stems from their teacher preparation programs. Much of the current research on inclusion of students with disabilities has shown that general educators often feel confused when asked to make accommodations for students with disabilities within their classes (Lombard et al., 1998). Educators have indicated that they feel unprepared to implement inclusion as a result of a lack of preparation in education programs (Avramidis, Bayliss & Burden, 2000; Bender & Ukeje, 1989; Bender, Vail, & Scott 1995; Betancourt-Smith 1994; Bruneau-Balderrama, 1997; Buell et al, 1999; Center & Ward, 1987; Creal, 2000; Edelen-Smith, Prater, & Sileo 1993; Evans, Townsend, Duchnowski, & Hocutt, 1996; Ferguson, 1995; Forlin et al. 1999; Garfinkle & Schwartz, 2002; Glass 1996; Grbich & Sykes, 1992; Hammond & Ingalls, 2003; Hastings, Hewes, Lock & Witting, 1996; Johnston, Proctor, & Corey 1994; King-Sears & Cummings, 1996; Kwapy, 2004; Lanier & Lanier 1996; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000; Minke, Bear, Deemer & Griffin, 1996; Nevin, Cohen, Salazar & Marshall, 2007; Olson, 2003; O’Shea & O’Shea, 1997; Pugach & Seidl, 1995; Reber, Marshak, & Glor-Scheib, 1995; Reed & Monda-Amaya, 1995; Reitz & Kerr, 1991; Salend, 2001; Schumm et al. 1994; Schumm & Vaughn, 1992; Schuum & Vaughn, 1995; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Shanker, 1994; Sindelar, 1995; Singh, 2001; Slusher & Saumell 1996; Snyder, 1990; Soodak, Podell & Lehman, 1998; Swoboda, 2000; Tait & Purdie 2000; Taylor, Richards, Goldstein, & Schilit 1997; Vaughn, Schumm, Jallad, Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1994; Vaughn, Schumm, Jallad, Slusher, & Saumell, 1996; Wang, Reynolds & Walberg, 1994; Wanzenried, 1998).

Currently, many educators remain insufficiently informed about the practice and theory of inclusion as well as the effect it has on all students within the classroom. Part of teacher preparation programs includes instilling a sense of knowledge and experience of working with students with disabilities. Those with experience working with students with disabilities tend to have more positive attitudes toward inclusion (Beh-Pajooh, 1991; Forlin, Fogarty & Carroll, 1999; Gallagher 1985; Gregory, 1997; Hastings et al., 1996; Hastings & Graham, 1995; LeRoy & Simpson 1996; Pernell, McIntyre, & Bader 1985; Sack 1998; Rees, Spreen & Harnadek, 1991; Shoho, Katims, & Wilks 1997).

If teachers feel as though they are unprepared to accommodate students with disabilities; there needs to be a change in teacher preparation programs to ensure that all teachers feel confident and prepared to teach students with exceptionalities. By changing teacher education programs and adding more required coursework regarding students with exceptionalities, teachers should be better equipped to make accommodations and interventions for exceptional students.

It is important to account for preservice teachers’ attitudes and beliefs in order to rectify any ill conceived notions about inclusion of children with ASDs. By identifying attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs, the inclusion process can be improved. By identifying factors that lead to negative attitudes towards inclusion and dispelling any myths associated with inclusion of students with ASDs, these students may be better served within the general education classroom. In addition, the attitudes towards inclusion may pinpoint weaknesses within teacher preparation programs.

By identifying weaknesses, teacher education programs may be able to change or revise classes and curriculum to better meet the needs of future educators. Due to the increase in students identified with ASDs, laws mandating students be taught in the LRE, more general education teachers will have to make accommodations for students with ASDs within their classrooms. By identifying teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs, teacher curriculum can be changed and in-services can be added to programming to improve teacher attitudes towards inclusion.

Statement of the Problem

This study will focus on self-efficacy of preservice teachers and their attitudes towards inclusion of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Current research shows a range of attitudes towards inclusion of students with disabilities. There is a lack of research regarding teacher attitudes towards the various disability categories; specifically ASDs. Inclusion of students based on specific disability categories, ASDs, has been limited. With the increase in diagnosis of children with ASDs; there will likely be an increase in the placement of students with ASDs into general education classrooms.

As a result, general education teachers will likely be responsible for teaching students with ASDs within their classrooms. By identifying attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs, the inclusion process can be improved. By identifying factors that lead to negative attitudes towards inclusion, such as teacher efficacy beliefs, and dispelling any myths associated with inclusion of students with ASDs, these students may be better served within the general education classroom. In addition, the attitudes towards inclusion may pinpoint weaknesses within teacher training programs. By identifying weaknesses, teacher education programs may be able to use this information to implement changes or revisions to classes and curriculum to better meet the needs of future educators.

Purpose of the Study

The primary purpose of this study is to investigate preservice teachers’ sense of efficacy and their attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs. Relationships between teacher attitudes towards inclusion, teacher efficacy, the type of student disability, teacher preparation programs, and demographic information will be explored. This study aims to identify preservice teacher attitudes toward inclusion of students with ASDs and their level of teacher efficacy.

Additionally, it will explore factors that influence attitudes of preservice teachers toward inclusion of students with ASDs. By understanding the factors that influence preservice teacher attitudes, teacher preparation programs can better prepare teachers for students with exceptionalities, particularly ASDs within the classrooms.

Research Questions

What are preservice teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs within the general education classroom?

Secondary Questions:

What is the relationship between teacher efficacy and teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs?

What factors are related to preservice teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs?

What is the relationship between the amount of college preparation courses and teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs?

Is there a relationship between having a special education background and attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs?

Is there a relationship between having a special education background and teacher efficacy?

Rationale

Inclusive education integrates all students, regardless of disability, into the general education classroom. Integration of students with disabilities requires teachers to make accommodations and modifications for students in order for them to be successful within the general education classroom. The teacher’s level of efficacy has been found to affect their willingness to make modifications and accommodations for students with disabilities and thus affect their attitudes toward inclusion.

This study will investigate preservice teachers’ sense of efficacy and its correlation with attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs. Current studies focus on the integration of students with disabilities without differentiating specific disability categories. This study will allow for differentiation of ASDs from the remaining disability categories. Findings from this study will be beneficial for teacher preparation programs.

Bandura (1986, 1994, 1997) suggested that predications about behavior outcomes affect the individual’s goals, effort, and motivation to complete a task. Predications of behavior are highly influenced by a person’s self-efficacy (Woolfolk, 2010). Self-efficacy has been defined as the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situations (Bandura, 1995). As a result, people are more likely to engage in behaviors that they believe they are capable of completing successfully. If a person believes they are able to complete an activity with success, they have high self-efficacy; conversely, if they do not feel they are able to complete certain behaviors successfully, they have low self-efficacy. Individuals tend to seek behaviors that they have success with and will put more effort and persistence to activities that they consider to be successful. Self-efficacy is also influenced by a person’s previous successes or failures with an activity, feedback from others regarding their performance, and success or failure of other people around them (Woolfolk, 2010).

For inclusion to be successful, teachers will need to observe a successful implementation of inclusion. In addition, they will have to feel confident in their own abilities to implement inclusion. This confidence will likely come from their teacher education training as well as role models indicating a successful implementation of inclusion. If a teacher does not believe he or she is able to implement inclusion within their classroom, the inclusion process is likely to fail.

This has implications for the students within their classrooms. Students without disabilities are likely to model the teacher’s negative attitude towards inclusion and imitate behavior; at the same time, if the teacher has a positive attitude toward inclusion, the children would imitate that behavior. The self-efficacy of the teacher and their resulting actions has a large impact for the successful inclusion of students with ASDs within the general education class.

Conceptual Framework

This study is rooted in the theories of Albert Bandura, a cognitive theorist. His theories on social learning, social cognition, and self-efficacy have an influence this study. Bandura’s social cognitive theory and his construct of self efficacy (Bandura 1977) help explain how teacher’s attitudes towards inclusion would potentially have an effect upon the students within their classrooms.

Bandura’s (1977) theory of self-efficacy is closely tied with teacher sense of efficacy. Teacher sense of efficacy is the belief that a teacher can reach all of his or her students, regardless of disability and teach all types of students (Woolfolk, 2010). Teacher sense of efficacy has a major impact upon the students within a teacher’s classroom. A high sense of teacher efficacy would indicate a teacher believes that he or she is capable to teach their students. Teachers with a high sense of teacher efficacy believe they can teach all of their students, regardless of disability (Woolfolk, 2010).

Significance of the Study

Due to revisions of federal regulations regarding placement of special education students within the LRE, children with disabilities are spending a majority of their day in the general education classroom. This study is an investigation of preservice teachers’ sense of efficacy and attitudes regarding inclusion of students with ASDs. It is valuable to determine attitudes of preservice teacher regarding the placement of students with ASDs due to research currently citing teacher attitudes strongly effect the success of students (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; Bacon & Schultz, 1991; Chow & Winzer, 1992; Coates, 1989; Cook, Semmel, & Gerber, 1999; Good & Brophy, 1997; Hayes & Gunn; 1988; Idol, Nevin, & Paolucci-Whitcomb, 1994; Roa & Lim, 1999; Salend, 2001; Semmel, Abernathy, Butera, & Lesar, 1991; Shade & Stewart, 2000; Silberman, 1971; Van Reusen, Shoho, & Barker, 2001; William & Algozine, 1977).

Previously, students who needed modifications or adjustments within the classroom were separated from the non-disabled students and placed in special education classrooms. Changes in the law have provided a directive that all students must be educated in the LRE, part of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142). This law states that individuals, regardless of the severity of their disabilities, are entitled to receive services from the public school systems at no cost to the parents (Public Law No. 94-142). With more students being placed in general education classrooms, it is important for future educators to have positive attitudes towards successful inclusion of students with ASDs.

The results of this study may help in the development of effective educational curriculum at universities and colleges with teacher education programs. Education programs need to be committed to producing highly qualified and prepared future educators. This means being prepared to teach and understand the unique needs required by students with ASDs within the classroom. Results from this study may help preservice teachers to gain insight into their attitudes towards inclusion and their efficacy beliefs.

Definitions and Terminology

Accommodation: “A change in testing materials or procedures that enables students to participate in assessments in ways that reflect their skills and abilities rather than their disabilities” (Salvia, Ysseldyke & Bolt, 2007, p. 682).

Americans with Disabilities Act (Coladarci & Breton): Public Law No. 10-325 (1 January 2009). “Prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, transportation, public access, local government, and telecommunications” (Woolfolk, 2010, p. 129).

Autism: “Developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age 3 and ranging from mild to major” (Woolfolk, 2007, p. 613).

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs): A group of five related developmental disorders that share common core deficits or difficulties in social relationships, communication, and ritualistic behaviors; differentiated from one another primarily by the age of onset and severity of various systems; includes autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood


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