Graduation Date

12-2019

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree

Master of Science

Program

Education

Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

Second Reader

Colleen Arnold

Abstract

This research aims to understand the benefits and overall impact of social inclusion from the perspective of the neurotypical peer. My research analyzes three strategies that are widely used to promote the acquisition of social skills for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders; Social Skills Training, Peer-Network Implementation, and Pivotal Response Training. Currently, existing research fails to thoroughly investigate how social inclusion impacts the neurotypical peer, but rather focuses on the impact that social inclusion has on the individual with ASD. While this is vital information, it is also crucial to understand from the perspective of the neurotypical peer, as they play a significant role in providing authentic, social opportunities for individuals with ASD.

My research aims to close this gap and develop an understanding of social inclusion from multiple perspectives. I utilized a mixed methods approach using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. I conducted focus group interviews, individual interviews, and observations. I included quantifiable measures such as a scale survey which was given to participants before and after the study. The ultimate goal of this study is to provide schools, and educators, with a greater understanding of social inclusion from a different perspective. As a result, we can move forward with providing our students with more meaningful inclusive opportunities.

This topic is important to study due to the emphasis on mainstreaming students with special needs in the general education classroom. I will be using elements from each of the strategies described above, to develop a training program for volunteers at Grove school. Grove is a school for children ages 5-22 with behavior challenges, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities. The purpose of this study is to explore and understand the impact of social inclusion from the perspective of the neurotypical peer.

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