Examining the Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Ontario Public Schools

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Minuk, Alexandra
autism spectrum disorder , inclusive education , classroom placement
In Ontario, inclusive education is the first consideration for the classroom placement of students with exceptionalities (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2018). Inclusion in the regular classroom is believed to be particularly beneficial for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours, activities, and interests (American Psychological Association, 2013). In making decisions related to the location of instruction and support for students with ASD, Identification, Placement and Review Committees (IPRCs) are meant to consider student-specific factors, such as level of adaptive functioning (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2017). There is evidence to suggest, however, that these decisions are also influenced by other variables, such as students’ age (Sansosti & Sansosti, 2012), academic performance (Segall & Campbell, 2014), and geographic locale (Kurth, 2015). The purpose of this study was to examine the inclusive classroom placement of students with ASD across the province as well as to identify some of the significant variables that are associated with these placements. Using a retrospective research design, descriptive statistics and multivariate analysis of variance were used to characterize the classroom placement of students with ASD over a 12-year period. Additionally, correlations between the percentage of students with ASD in inclusive classroom placements, school board variables, and region-related variables of interest were calculated. The findings from this study indicate that there has been a notable increase in the percentage of students with ASD in inclusive classroom placements over time. While the correlation analysis involving school board variables reinforced the idea that inclusion is not necessarily associated with student learning (Kalambouka et al., 2007), several region-related variables were found to be associated with inclusive classroom placement at the elementary and secondary levels. Not only can these findings characterize patterns and trends in the classroom placement of elementary and secondary students with ASD, but also, they highlight the utility of a geospatial approach in identifying some of the variables that can be used to direct efforts in increasing inclusive education placement decisions.
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