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Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

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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 It was originally enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities had the same opportunity as students without disabilities (Woolfolk, 2010).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 disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) (Heward, 2006).

Efficacy: A person’s belief that he or she is capable of achieving a goal. Because they believe they are capable, they then modify their behavior in order to be successful in achieving their goal (Bandura, 1977).

Exceptional Students: “Students who have abilities or problems so significant that they require special education or other services to reach their potential” (Woolfolk, 2007, p. 616).

Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE): “All children, regardless of the severity of their disability, must be provided an education appropriate to their unique needs at no cost to the parent(s)/guardian(s). Included in this principle is the concept of related services, which requires that children receive, for example, occupational therapy as well as other services as necessary in order to benefit from special education” (Gargiulo, 2006, pg 50)

Full Inclusion: This term describes a general education classroom setting in which both students with and without disabilities receive instruction. Students remain in this classroom for the entire school day and are not pulled out to a special education setting to receive academic instruction.

IDEIA: Public Law No. 108-446 (3 December 2004). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) is a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. “The latest amendment of PL 94-142, guarantees a free public education to all children regardless of disability” (Woolfolk, 2010, p. 124).

Inclusion: In this study, inclusion refers to a process whereby individuals with disabilities receive instruction in regular education classrooms along with their nondisabled peers. The students with autism may have paraprofessionals and supports within the general education classroom. Inclusion defined is “the integration of all students, including those with severe disabilities, into regular classes” (Woolfolk, 2010, p. 557).

Inclusive Classroom: In this study, inclusive classrooms are where students who have IEPs receive instruction from regular education teachers within the general education classroom. “It is an educational setting that involves membership in general education classrooms with chronological age appropriate classmates, having individualized and relevant learning objectives, and being provided with the support necessary to learn” (Inzanno, 1999).

Individualized Education Program (IEP): “Annually revised program for an exceptional student, detailing present achievement level, goals, and strategies, drawn up by teachers, parents, specialists, and (if possible), the student” (Woolfolk, 2007, p. 617).

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): The regular education classroom, along with nondisabled peers, in the school that they would attend if they were not disabled, unless alternative placement is necessary, and specified in an individualized education plan (IDEA, Sec. 300.550-300.552).

Mainstreaming: A term used to describe the selective placement of special education students in one or more "regular" education classes rather than segregated classrooms. “Teaching children with disabilities in regular classes for part or all of the school day” (Woolfolk, 2010).

Modifications: Are changes in the course materials or instruction that allow a student to learn at their own level (Parker, 2006).

No Child Left Behind (NCLB): Public Law No. 107-110 (8 January 2002). This is the most recent authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). “Requires that all students in grades 3 through 8 take standardized achievement tests in reading and mathematics every year; in addition, one more exam will be required in high school” (Woolfolk, 2010, p. 519).

Placement: “The setting in which a child with disabilities is educated. Placement includes the school, the classroom, related services, community based services, and the amount of time a student will spend with peers who do not have disabilities” (Calvin & Luker, 2003).

Self-Contained Classroom: Is a classroom where a special education teacher teaches special education students.

Special Education: Individually planned, specialized, intensive, outcome-directed instruction. When practiced most effectively and ethically, special education is also characterized by the systematic use of research-based instructional methods, the application of which is guided by frequent measures of student performance (Heward, 2006).

Teacher’s attitudes towards inclusion: A teacher’s thoughts or feelings towards working with students who have disabilities within the regular education classroom (Wood, 2007).

Teachers’ sense of Efficacy: “A teacher’s belief that he or she can reach even the most difficult students and help them learn” (Woolfolk, 2010, p. 541).

General Methodology

This quantitative study will focus on the relationship between teacher efficacy and teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs. This study will focus on quantitative designs. Correlations will be used to measure the linear relationships between variables. Multiple regressions will be used to determine whether attitudes towards inclusion can be predicted from self efficacy, teacher preparation programs, type of disability, and special education background versus general education background. A predictive model will be developed for the data and will be used to predict the values of the dependent variable (teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs) from the independent variables (teacher efficacy, teacher preparation programs, and special education backgrounds).

Limitations

This study will take place at various University settings across the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. A limitation of this study will be the narrow Midwestern population. As a result, it might be difficult to generalize these results to other areas of the country. Also, the demographics make-up of the pre-service teachers might be different than other areas of the nation limiting generalization of the results. Another limitation will be that the data might be biased due to the use of self-reports within the study. Participants may rate themselves more favorably causing the data to be skewed.

Participants in the research survey will include elementary and secondary education majors and minors at several universities across Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. This may have limited the ability to generalize results to teachers working in other states. Another limitation will be the preservice teachers’ course of study; elementary education major’s may receive more support than secondary elementary majors. In addition, the surveys used within this research study will be revised from their original version. These revisions may have an effect on the reliabilities and validities of the original surveys and may be different from published data.

Assumptions

It is assumed that a significant number of teacher candidates within the education departments of the universities contacted will volunteer to be part of this study which will enable a significant sample group.

Individuals will respond honestly and accurately to the questionnaire.

Respondents are representative of teacher preparation programs.

It is assumed that the teachers would receive the questionnaire and that they were the person who actually completed the questionnaire.

It is assumed that the instruments will adequately measure the variables of interest.

It is assumed that the reliability and validity of the survey scales used within the study will be retained despite revisions.

Summary

This quantitative study will focus on the relationship between efficacy of preservice teachers and attitudes towards inclusion of students with ASDs. In addition, several variables will be explored to identify their impact upon the inclusion of students with ASDs. These variables include the type of teacher preparation program the preservice teacher experienced (Buell, Hallam, & Gamel-McCormick, 1999; Carroll, Forlin, & Jobling, 2003; Freytag, 2001; Reasons, 2005; Reber, 1995; Reitz & Kerr, 1991), how many courses the preservice teacher had pertaining to inclusion of students with disabilities, and whether they had special education background or experience working with students with disabilities (Sack, 1998; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Shoho & Barker, 2000; Taylor, et al., 1997).

Teacher efficacy will focus on how preservice teachers felt about inclusion of students with ASDs within their general education classrooms. The research question will examine whether there is a relationship between teacher efficacy and preservice teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion.

Organization of the Study

The next section, Chapter 2, will review the relevant literature to this study. The literature review will cover a brief history of special education and special education law; a brief history of ASDs; teacher attitudes towards inclusion of students with disabilities; and self-efficacy as developed by Bandura and how it relates to teacher efficacy. This is followed by Chapter 3, which includes descriptions of the research design, participants of the study, instruments selected, procedures, hypotheses, data collection, and data analysis. Chapter 4 will review the research results and Chapter 5 will provide a summary, conclusions and recommendations of this study.

Chapter 2: Review of Literature

History of Disabilities and Special Education

Historically, society has segregated and mistreated children with special needs. Individuals with disabilities have typically been looked upon as being different from the rest of society. Many cultures, customs, and laws encouraged the segregation of individuals with disabilities from society. Segregation goes as far back as Plato and Aristotle who agreed that it was important to purify the human race (Despart, 1965; Garland, 1995). The Greeks and Romans had similar fears of individuals with disabilities. They believed that children who were born deformed or who had developmental problems were sent by the gods to punish the parents (Garland, 1995).

Some ancient cultures believed in killing their young children if they were born with disabilities (Shapiro, 1999). Research by Dunn (1968) found that segregation was typically used to “dispose” of children who were not from socially acceptable backgrounds. Segregation even went so far as to use sterilization procedures beginning in the 19th century to end procreation of individuals with disabilities (Shapiro, 1995). Compulsory sterilization programs were implemented by the government in a forced attempt to surgically sterilize individuals deemed to be carriers of defective genetic traits (Laughlin, 1922). The United States was the first country to complete compulsory sterilization programs for the purpose of eugenics (http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Compulsory_sterilization_-_United_States_of_America/id/1249753).

Eugenics is a scientific field involving the controlled breeding of humans in order to achieve desirable traits in future generations (Laughlin, 1922). During the eugenics movement, many individuals with disabilities were sterilized against their will and many times without their knowledge; often while they were in the hospital for other reasons (Probert, 2002). Much sterilization took place in prisons and mental institutions (Laughlin, 1922). Some states passed laws requiring sterilization of individuals with disabilities who were residents of state institutions (Burgdorf & Burgdorf, 1977). Indiana was the first state to enact sterilization legislation, this was in 1907 (Probert, 2002). By the year 1934, nearly 3000 individuals had undergone compulsory sterilization.

Sterilization rates across the country were relatively low until the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell. This court case legitimized forced sterilization of mentally handicapped patients at an institution in Virginia (Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). Sterilizations increased until Skinner v. Oklahoma, a Supreme Court case, ruled against punitive sterilization in 1942 (Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535 (1942). Public opinion towards sterilization procedures became negative after World War II, and compulsory sterilizations decreased although continued in a few states until the early 1960s (Probert, 2002). Several states continued to have sterilization laws after this; however they were rarely used. In the end, over 64,000 individuals were sterilized under state compulsory sterilization programs in the United States (http://www.bambooweb.com/articles/c/o/Compulsory_sterilization.html).

Segregation was not confined to institutions alone; but spread to the education system. Until 1975, individuals with special needs were often excluded from the regular education classroom (Curtis, 2005). Many different types of students with special needs were served together in special education classrooms away from their normal developing peers. (http://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/lawbk/ch3.history.pdf). Many times children in the segregated classrooms were from cultural and racial minority groups. In 2004, six million children ages 6-21 were serviced under IDEA. Of these children, 14 percent were American Indians/Alaska Natives, 13 percent were Black, 9 percent White, 8 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asians/Pacific Islander (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2007/minoritytrends/ind_2_8.asp).

Several federal educational laws were later implemented to help end the segregation of students with disabilities. The Elementary and Secondary Act (ESA) was passed in 1965 by the federal government to provide funding to school systems so they could help children who needed extra services and supports in order to benefit from the public school system (Sands, Koleski, & French 2000). The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 was the most recent authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or ESA which was initially passed in 1965 (Public Law No. 107-110). NCLB is based on four pillars. These pillars are based on “stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, proven education methods, and more choices for parents” (http://www.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/4pillars.html).

All states are working to close the achievement gap and make sure all students, regardless of disability, achieve academic proficiency. Schools that do not make progress must provide additional services to supplement the student in learning (Public Law No. 107-110). NCLB has given states more flexibility in how they spend federal money. The money can be used to fund teaching grants, technology, special reading programs, etc. (.http://www.ed.gov/nclb/overview/intro/4pillars.html). These laws have enabled students with disabilities, specifically ASDs, to participate in the general education classroom.

In 1975, the federal government passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. No. 94-142). This law required public schools to ensure that all children, “regardless of disability, be entitled to a free and appropriate public education from the age of three through their 22nd birthday (Sands et al., 2000). In 1975, Public Law No. 94-142 was passed which provided all students with a free and appropriate education (FAPE) and required schools to educate all students in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Students with special needs were not to be placed in ‘special education classes’ all day; rather, they were to be educated with their non-disabled peers as much as possible. This is further explained by Public Law 94-142, which states:

To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilitiesare to be educated with children who are nondisabled; and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that the education in regular classes with the use of supplemental aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily (34 C.F.R. 300.550).

This law sparked the trend of inclusion of students with disabilities into general education classes. Unfortunately, many educators have less than positive attitudes about inclusion of students with disabilities (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; Jobb, 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).

P.L. 94-142 has been reauthorized several times since 1975. In 1986, the law was revised to extend the ages of services through the public school system through the individual’s 22nd birthday (Public Law 94-142). In, 1990, the law went through an additional revision and was renamed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). During this revision, legislators added into law that transition planning was required for individuals into their adult life (Public Law 94-142). In 1997, IDEA was reauthorized as IDEA 97.

This law authorized spending on personnel preparation programs at the higher-education level, authorized expenditures to school districts to help provide the range of services that students with disabilities required (Sands et al., 2000). The most recent revision of the law occurred in 2004 and was titled The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA; 2004). This revision also encouraged the inclusion of exceptional learners into the classroom. IDEIA 2004’s (2004) major goal is to ensure that every child who is identified as having special needs is guaranteed a free appropriate education.

History of Autism Spectrum Disorders

ASDs fall under the Pervasive Developmental Disorders based upon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM-IV, p. 14, 2005). Pervasive Developmental Disorder is a term that defines the spectrum of disorders which differ with symptoms, severity, and onset (DSM-IV, p. 69, 2005). Pervasive Developmental Disorders include: Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DSM-IV, p. 14, 2005).

ASDs are defined as developmental disorders in which behavior characteristics vary in syndrome expression and severity and range on a continuum from mild to severe (Volkmar, Rhea, Klin, Cohen, 2005). ASDs 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, p. 69, 2005). There are several speculations as to the etiology, treatment, and interventions for autism.

Diagnosing autism can be difficult because not all individuals show every symptom of autism and their symptoms are not manifested in the same manner. Autism has been hypothesized to be a result of poor mothering, biological factors, reactions to immunizations, and genetic predispositions. There are just as many theories pertaining to the treatment and therapy of autism.

The word ‘autism’ and ‘autistic’ are derived from the Greek word ‘autos,’ which means self, and was coined in 1911 by a psychiatrist, Eugen Bleuler (Sicile-Kira, 2004). He used the terms to describe an aspect of childhood schizophrenia where individuals withdraw totally from the outside world into themselves (Sicile-Kira, 2004). Autism was distinguished as a separate entity from schizophrenia in 1971; however, the relationship with schizophrenia is far from being resolved (Sicile-Kira, 2004).

Autism has a unique history with Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger leading the field with its discovery. They began their work in the early 1940s and were the first researchers within the autism field (Sicile-Kira, 2004). Kanner was an Austrian psychiatrist who introduced the term ‘early infantile autism’ for a type of disorder that was unrecognized as a clinical entity. Hans Asperger was an Austrian pediatrician who studied ‘autistic psychopathology’, which was later termed autism.

They each simultaneously identified a set of similar characteristics of autistic children, independently of one another, and described exactly the same type of disturbed child (Frith, 1997). Up until their research, no one paid much attention to this subgroup of individuals. Kanner identified autism as a distinct neurological condition, while Hans Asperger was convinced that the syndrome was genetically transmitted (Frith, 1997). Kanner published his original paper on autism in 1943 and it became extremely well known while Asperger published his doctoral thesis using the word ‘autistic’ to describe the group of boys within his study in 1944.

His paper was strangely ignored while Kanner’s gained in popularity. It has only been within the past decade that interest has developed for Asperger’s paper (Frith, 1997). It later became a landmark in the developmental concept of autism and part of the classic literature of child psychiatry (Frith, 1997). There was a great deal of overlap between Asperger (1944) and Kanner’s (1943) views of autism. Each of them identified the prominent features used to identify individuals with autism. These features included: poor social interaction, failure of communication, stereotypical behaviors, isolated special interests, and resistance to change (Frith, 1997).

Bruno Bettelheim was a Hungarian psychotherapist in the mid to late 1940’s who studied autism. He developed theories as to the cause of autism and determined that it was a result of cold unfeeling parents. He believed autism was a mental illness rather than a biological disorder (Sicile-Kira, 2004). His theories were widely accepted for nearly two decades. Luckily, psychiatry’s perception of autism was changed with the work completed by Doctor Bernard Rimland. His son was diagnosed with autism and Dr. Rimland dedicated his studies to the disorder. His work lead to the insistence that autism is a biological disorder and not an emotional illness, as Bettelheim previously suggested (Sicile-Kira, 1997).

Bettelheim’s theory of poor parenting as the primary cause of autism was disproved. Dr. Rimland continued to research the causes and possible treatments for autism and founded the Autism Society of America and the Autism Research Institute in 1967 (Sicile-Kira, 1997).

Autism has drastically increased as a diagnosed disability within the population. Some researchers believe autism has been around for centuries; however, there was not an accurate method for diagnosing it until recently and it remained largely undiagnosed (Frith, 2003). Others believe environmental factors, better diagnosing criteria, or reactions to vaccinations may have contributed to the increase. Researchers have analyzed post-dictal studies and found evidence of autism. Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron, is an example of an individual who would have likely been diagnosed with autism (Frith, 2003).

Memoirs from his caretaker, Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard, indicated difficulties with judgment, imagination, and memory. He had difficulties with relating to other people and had an unusually sensitive perception of certain sounds. He was described as indifferent to many of the childhood activities that most other children enjoyed. He did not speak, answer questions, or respond to sounds made around him. He often chose to be alone, or to sleep instead of interacting with others. In many instances, individuals with autism may tolerate extremes of pain, hunger, and temperature without complaint (Frith, 2003).

This would account for his survival in the wild for such an extended period of time alone. Although Victor’s difficulties could be a result of being a child from the wilderness, the argument could be made that autism was at the core of his difficulties relating with others as well as his inability to make gains despite extensive interventions from Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard (Frith, 2003).

Diagnosing autism can be difficult because not all children show all of the symptoms of autism, nor do they express them in the same manner. In addition, various disciplines define autism differently (i.e. Psychiatric versus educational criteria). Due to the fact that autism is considered a spectrum disorder, it is often up to the diagnostician to determine the extent of the individual’s symptoms and to what degree they fall on the continuum or outside the normal range of development. Berney (2000) argued whether or not autism and Asperger’s Syndrome are really two separate disorders or simply the poles of a single continuum. Szatmari et al. (2000) suggested that the differences between Asperger’s syndrome and autism might be largely a matter of timing as it appears as though the two groups are on different, parallel courses.

Berney (2000) goes on to suggest that there is a high probability that children identified with autism at an early age may be more likely to be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome once they develop language. There are also disagreements about the diagnosis between autism and Asperger’s Syndrome that arises when there is a failure to appreciate how the clinical picture may change with age. Between the ages of 5 and 6 years old, individuals gradually abandon the echolalia and learn spontaneously to use personal pronouns with adequate reference (Frith 2003). This picture changes from one of autism to that of Asperger’s syndrome.

Three reasons for the lack of agreement over the diagnosis of autism have been considered: use of different diagnostic criteria, subjectivity of the symptoms used as diagnostic criteria, and changes in the clinical picture with age (Frith, 2003). The behavioral manifestations can vary with age and ability, but the core features remain (Frith, 2003). It appears as though ASDs are a disorder that has no clear boundaries. Wing (1988) has argued that rather than thinking rigidly in terms of a discrete syndrome of autism, we should be aware that there is a continuum of autistic disorders (Bishop 1989).

Individuals with autism display qualitative impairments in reciprocal social interaction as well as with verbal and nonverbal communication. They also engage in patterns of repetitive, stereotypic activities (Szatmari, Bryson, Streiner, Wilson, Archer, & Ryerse 2000). Manifestations of the disorder vary greatly depending on the developmental level and chronological age of the individual (Gresham, Beebe-Frankenberger, MacMillan 1999).

There are no miracle cures for autism. No pills, shots, or other therapies can ‘cure’ autism because a cure to control and/or prevent autism does not exist (Koegel 2004). Although there is no cure for autism, research has shown that it can be effectively managed using comprehensive behavioral and educational treatment programs (Garfinkle & Schwartz, 2002; .

Prevalence of Autism

For decades, ASDs were believed to be rare. So rare, that prior to 2004 it was believed that 4 to 5 per 10,000 children were identified as having an ASD (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm). Further investigation by the Centers for Disease Centers for Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of pediatrics (AAP) found in 2004 that prevalence rates for ASDs were between 2 and 6 per 1,000 children (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm; Bryson, Rogers, & Fombonne, 2003). It is evident that more and more children are being identified with an ASD. Currently, ASDs are the second most common serious developmental disability after mental handicaps and has become the fastest growing developmental disability effecting 1 to 1.5 million Americans (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm).

Based on prevalence statistics from the CDC from 2007and the Autism Society of America, one out of every 150 children in the United States is identified with an ASD (http://www.autism-society.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about_whatis_factsstats). Four million children are born in the United States every year. Of these four million children; 560,000 individuals between the ages of 0-21 have ASD. (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm). There has been in increase in the number of children with ASD being serviced in special education programs. “Between 1994 and 2006, the number of 6 to 17 year old children classified has having an ASD in public special education programs increased from 22,664 to 211,610 (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm). Based on CDC data from 2006, the state of Indiana serviced 179,043 students under IDEIA. Of these students, 8,189 students between the ages of 3 and 21 were serviced under IDEIA, specifically ASD (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/faq_prevalence.htm).

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network was put together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine the prevalence of ASD in the United States (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.htm). The goals of the ADDM Network are to provide a baseline for ASDs, to describe the population of children with ASDs, to compare ASD prevalence in different groups of children and different areas of the country, to identify changes in ASD prevalence over time, and to understand the impact of autism and related conditions in the United States (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.htm). The ADDM Network evaluated six sites to determine the prevalence of ASDs for children who were 8 years old in 2000. An additional eight sites were used to determine ASDs for children who were 8 years old in 2002 (Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2002 Principal Investigators).

ADDM’s (2002) research found the prevalence to be 6.7 per 1,000 8 year olds in 2000 and 6.6 per 1,000 8 year olds in 2002. That is about 1 in 150 children in those communities. Approximately 4.5 percent of 8 year old children in the United States were identified as having an ASD (Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2002 Principal Investigators). The ADDM Network (2002) found that ASD prevalence was higher among boys than among girls, ranging from three to more than five boys for every girl with ASD (Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2002 Principal Investigators). This ratio was also supported in numerous research studies (Bertrand, Mars, Boyle, Bore, Yeargin, Allsopp, Decoufle, 2001; Fombonne’s 2003; Lord, Sch


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