How can autistic intelligence be recognised and accommodated within an inclusive education framework?
thesisposted on 01.06.2011, 14:09 by Barbara Helen Jacobs
The aims of this study were twofold and integrated. The first was to explore whether Hans Asperger’s expression ‘autistic intelligence’ was a valid and possibly helpful concept to educators. The second was to discover whether this theorised cognitive style could be accommodated within an inclusive education framework. Four students on the autism spectrum, in mainstream schools, their parents and their teachers were interviewed in a case-study approach, to analyse their beliefs and understandings about autism. Data analysis showed that parents and students in particular believed autism to involve a recognisable cognitive style. It tended, they said, to have sensory elements which impacted upon engagement and learning, and appeared to give rise to some social difficulties. These in turn were thought to impact upon the emotional wellbeing of students on the autism spectrum. Significant bullying and exclusion of these students was reported. They recognised their ‘difference’ from their peers and attempted to negotiate that difference. However, teachers tended to reject the concept of ‘labelling’ these students. These findings in part reflect developing current theoretical and cognitive neuroscience consensus supporting a theorised Local Processing Bias as perhaps being a key element in defining core characteristics of autism. Additionally the research showed that the inclusive framework was perceived to be failing these students in many ways. In particular, the difficulties in obtaining educational help and support were believed, by students and their parents, to be obstructive. Another area of concern was the use of teaching assistants as the main educational intervention offered. The inclusive framework, according to these stakeholders, appears to have little recognition of or accommodation for what might be called autistic intelligence. Yet this might possibly be accomplished by making some environmental adaptations. The concept of autistic intelligence, with its theorised perceptual bias, might be useful in considering the nature of any adaptations.