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Social inclusion of young children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Australian early childhood programs Sue Walker and Donna Berthelsen Queensland University.

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Presentation on theme: "Social inclusion of young children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Australian early childhood programs Sue Walker and Donna Berthelsen Queensland University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social inclusion of young children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Australian early childhood programs Sue Walker and Donna Berthelsen Queensland University of Technology Cricos No J

2 Social acceptance is not always the outcome for children with disabilities in inclusive programs (Guralnick, Hammond, Connor & Neville, 2006) There is evidence that children with disabilities may be socially excluded or isolated within early childhood settings Compared to typically developing children, preschool children with disabilities: Exhibit lower levels of social interactive play Form very few reciprocal friendships and Are less accepted by their peers (Guralnick, Connor, Hammond, Gottman & Kinnish, 1996; Guralnick & Groom, 1988; Hestenes & Carroll, 2000; Walker & Berthelsen, 2005) Why be concerned about children's social inclusion? Peer interactions form the context within which children learn other developmental skills Social competence difficulties and social isolation experienced by children with disabilities are critical issues to be addressed The level of social integration in inclusive programs of young children with disabilities is a function of their social competence (Guralnick, 2002) Difficulties with peer interaction experienced by young children with disabilities inhibit opportunities to fully participate in early childhood programs

3 Peer interactions form the context within which children learn other developmental skills Social competence difficulties and social isolation experienced by children with disabilities are critical issues to be addressed The level of social integration in inclusive programs of young children with disabilities is a function of their social competence (Guralnick, 2002) Difficulties with peer interaction experienced by young children with disabilities inhibit opportunities to fully participate in early childhood programs Why be concerned about children's social inclusion?

4 To explore the level of social inclusion of young children with ASD in early childhood education programs To examine the nature of the play and engagement in play activities of young children with ASD with their typically developing peers Aims of the Research

5 Participants –12 focus children (male) with a diagnosis of ASD enrolled in regular preschool settings –Mean age months (SD 6.41) –30 typically developing comparison children –Mean age months (SD 8.16) Method

6 Method Theory of Mind (false belief tasks) –Changed location and unexpected contents Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) –Receptive language Profile of Peer Relations –Teacher rating of peer acceptance –Prosocial behaviour –Aggressive/disruptive behaviour –Passive/alone behaviour Naturalistic Observations –Time sample observations at five minute intervals across four free play periods of one hour each at each preschool (50 observations of each focus child)

7 Social categories –Onlooker, alone or solitary play, parallel play, social play, teacher interaction Cognitive categories –Functional play, constructive play, dramatic play, games with rules Additional codes – Anxious behaviour, positive emotions, gross motor activity, aggression, ongoing connected conversation Observation categories

8 Data analysis Non-parametric tests of significance (Mann-Whitney U, p <.05, two tailed) were used to test for differences on mean scores between typically developing and focus children Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test Focus children significantly lower on PPVT (Mann- Whitney U = 51.50, p =.001) Theory of Mind Tasks No significant difference between groups

9 Comparison between focus children and typically developing children on profile of peer relations *indicates p <.05, **indicates p <.01, ***indicates p <.001

10 Comparison between focus children and typically developing children on observational data *indicates p <.05, **indicates p <.01, ***indicates p <.001

11 Comparison between focus children and typically developing children on observational data

12 No significant differences between groups

13 –Teacher report indicated that focus children: Were less well accepted by the peer group than typically developing children Displayed less prosocial/ cooperative behaviour and more passive/ withdrawn behaviour than typically developing children – Observational data indicated that focus children: Were more likely to be engaged in solitary play and functional play and less likely to be engaged in social play than typically developing children Were more likely than typically developing children to be engaged in interacting with the teacher Were engaged at comparable levels to typically developing children across most categories of play activity and social interaction Summary of Results

14 Overall, compared to typically developing children, children with disabilities: –Exhibited lower levels of socially interactive play –Engaged in higher levels of isolate play –Engaged in more frequent interactions with the teacher However, while teacher report indicated that the focus children had significant deficits in their social skills, observational analyses showed children were not significantly different in most social and play activities in which they participated compared to focus children Discussion

15 DiscussionCont…. Significant differences between focus children and typically developing children in receptive language ability (PPVT) No significant differences between focus children and typically developing children on a range of tasks requiring an understanding of Theory of Mind However, both teacher report and observational data indicated that, although focus children participated socially in the preschool setting, they spent proportionally less time than their peers in activities requiring higher levels of social skill (e.g., social play)

16 Due to the lack of significant differences in performance between focus children and the typically developing children on the ToM tasks, a focus on social-cognitive skills may not be as useful with this age group as direct teaching of play and social skills Active adult intervention in play and social activities is essential in inclusive early education programs Effective teaching should be focussed on: Direct instruction of functional social skills Social relationships as the catalyst for learning Social communication as the basis for an integrated teaching-learning process. Implications

17 References Guralnick, M.J. (2002). Involvement with peers: Comparisons between young children with and without Down’s Syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 46 (5), Guralnick, M.J., Connor, R.T., Hammond, M., Gottman, J.M. & Kinnish, K. (1996). Immediate effects of mainstreamed settings on the social interactions and social integration of preschool children. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 100 (4), Guralnick, M.J., Hammond, M., Connor, R.T. & Neville, B. (2006). Stability, change and correlates of the peer relationships of young children with mild developmental delays. Child Development, 77 (2), Guralnick, M.J. & Groom, J.M. (1988). Friendships of preschool children in mainstreamed playgroups. Developmental Psychology, 24, Hestenes, L.L. & Carroll, D.E. (2000). The play interactions of young children with and without disabilities: Individual and environmental influences. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 15 (2), Walker, S. & Berthelsen, D. (2005). Social interactions of young children with disabilities in Australian early childhood programs. Presented at the Biennial Conference of the Society for Research in Child Development, Atlanta, Georgia, April, 2005.


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