Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Kimberly Dean


Given the simultaneous rise in rates of autism and the expectations for school-based inclusion of students with disabilities, research targeting inclusive practices continues to be a priority. Researchers have examined the attitudes and perspectives of general education teachers and best practice for including individuals with high functioning autism spectrum disorders. However, there is little research exploring the relationship between attitudes and practice with regard to the inclusion of individuals on the low functioning end of the spectrum. The purpose of this study was to explore the self-reported attitudes and perspectives of general education teachers in relation to what was observed and practiced in their general education classrooms when including a student with high need autism (HNA).

The researcher conducted a pre- and post- self-reported attitudinal survey exploring beliefs about inclusion of students with disabilities in general and later the same survey asking specifically about inclusion of students with HNA. There was very little difference in the results from the two surveys. In general, teachers reported that they were willing to support inclusive practices and generally viewed inclusion as a positive experience. Twelve classroom observations of the general education teachers, the student with HNA and a typically developing comparison peer were completed (two per target student). Results reveal HNA students were actively engaged less than comparison peers (16% vs 28%). A greater disparity occurred for passive engagement, 16% for the student with HNA and 49% for the comparison student. When looking at off-task behavior, HNA students were off-task at a far higher rate than comparison students, primarily demonstrating off-task with a motor response. The rate of interaction between the general education teacher and the student with HNA was three times lower than the rate of interaction with the typically developing comparison peer. There was very little interaction between the targeted HNA student and any classroom peers.

The findings implicate that general education teachers reported positive attitudes toward inclusion and demonstrated structural and environmental best practices in their classrooms. The findings also show that there appeared to be a lack of meaningful inclusive education opportunities for HNA students and the author calls for further research exploring how to optimize the value of time spent in the inclusive classroom.