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Looking through the Same Eyes? Do Teachers’ Participation Ratings Match with Ratings of Students with Autism Spectrum Conditions in Mainstream Schools?

DOI: 10.1155/2012/656981

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To create an inclusive classroom and act accordingly, teachers’ understanding of the experiences of participation of students with autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) is crucial. This understanding may depend on the teachers’ professional experiences, support and personal interests. The aim of the present questionnaire study was to investigate how well the teachers’ ratings of their students with ASCs’ perception of participation matched with the students’ own ratings. Furthermore, possible correlations between the accuracy of teachers’ ratings and the teachers’ self-reported professional experience, support (including support-staff), and personal interest were investigated. Teachers’ ratings were also used to examine how their understandings correlated with classroom actions. The agreements between teachers’ and students’ ratings were moderate to high, and the ability to attune to the students’ perception of participation was not affected by the presence of a support-staff. The teachers’ personal interest in teaching students with ASC correlated with their accuracy, suggesting that this is a factor to consider when planning for successful placements in mainstream schools. Teachers’ understandings of the students with ASCs’ perception of being bullied or unpopular correlated with implementation of activities to improve the attitudes of classmates, but not with actions to enhance social relations for the students with ASC. 1. Introduction Since the Salamanca declaration [1], taking its stand from the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, inclusive schools have been the goal for many countries’ school policies. If students with impairments are included in a mainstream school, they are afforded an opportunity to participate in activities and social interaction [2]. However, simply being in a mainstream school environment is not enough for participation to occur. Both environmental aspects, for example, attitudes of classmates and teachers, and personal characteristics of the student with impairment affect participation [3]. Participation per se is, however, not mentioned in the Salamanca declaration but the term is used in The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities [4]. Participation can be viewed as having two dimensions, namely, performing an activity and the perception of being involved in that activity. Actual, as well as perceived, availability and access to activities influence the performance dimension [3]. The perceived meaningfulness of the

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