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International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 33–51 | Cite as

Children with autistic spectrum disorder in early childhood education programs: A social constructivist perspective on inclusion

  • Sue Walker
  • Donna Berthelsen
Articles

Summary

This research investigated the nature of play activities and the social engagement of young children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in inclusive early childhood settings. Twelve focus children with a diagnosis of ASD participated in the research. These children were enrolled in regular early childhood education programs with typically developing peers aged four to five years. A comparison group of 30 children with typical development were also included in the research. Children completed the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) to assess their linguistic competence. Time-sampled observations of free play activities were made in the preschool settings on two occasions for periods of one hour. Teachers also provided an assessment of children’s peer acceptance and social behaviour. The observational data and teacher reports indicated that the focus children spent proportionally less time than their peers in activities requiring higher levels of social skills. However, focus children engaged in most types of play but with lower levels of engagement than the comparison group. This indicated that the focus children were able to perform the play and social behaviours that were of interest in the observations. These children with ASD were capable of more extensive social and play engagement because they had demonstrated the requisite skills. These results indicated the need for greater teacher support to scaffold and support the interactions of children with ASD with their typically developing peers in order to increase their social and play participation in inclusive programs.

Keywords

autistic spectrum disorder inclusive programs social constructivism 

Résumé

Cette étude a pour objectif d’analyser, pendant la petite enfance, la nature des activités ludiques de même que les aptitudes sociales des jeunes enfants atteints de troubles du spectre autistique (TSA). Douze enfants atteints de TSA ont été le centre d’attention de ces recherches. Tous étaient inscrits à une structure d’accueil petite enfance conventionnelle au côté d’autres enfants âgés de quatre à cinq ans. Pour établir une comparaison, les chercheurs ont également fait appel à un groupe de 30 enfants sans troubles similaires. Les enfants ont passé le test de vocabulaire par l’image de Peabody (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) permettant d’évaleur leurs compétences linguistiques. Les activités ludiques dans le milieu préscolaire ont été observées à deux reprises, de manière aléatoire et sur une période d’une heure chacune. Les instituteurs ont également évalué l’acceptation des enfants par leurs camarades et leur comportement social vis à vis d’eux. Les données relatives aux observations ainsi que les rapports des instituteurs ont démontré que les enfants atteints de troubles autistiques passaient moins de temps que leurs petits camarades sur des activités nécessitant des aptitudes sociales plus développées. Néanmoins, ces enfants se sont impliqués dans la plupart des jeux mais avec des niveaux d’interactions sociales moins élevés que pour le groupe de comparaison. Ces observations tendent à démontrer que les enfants atteints de ces troubles sont capables de prendre part au jeu et d’interagir avec leurs camarades. Les enfants atteints de TSA ont montré de vraies aptitudes sociales et de réelles capacités d’implication au jeu. Cette étude a démontré l’importance du soutien de l’Instituteur qui favorise les interactions entre les enfants atteints de TSA et leurs camarades. Il permet en outre d’encourager la participation au jeu et de renforcer les liens sociaux dans le cadre des programmes inclusifs.

Resumen

Este estudio analiza la naturaleza del comportamiento durante las actividades lúdicas y los vínculos sociales de los niños y niñas pequeños con trastornos del espectro autista (TEA) en el marco de la primera infancia. En esta investigación han participado doce niños diagnosticados con TEA. Todos ellos formaban parte de programas de educación para la primera infancia junto a niños con un desarrollo normal de edades comprendidas entre los cuatro y los cinco años. También se incluyeron en el estudio a 30 niños con un desarrollo normal. Los niños completaron el Test de Vocabulario en Imágenes de Peabody (PPVT) para evaluar su competencia lingűística. En dos ocasiones se realizaron observaciones de muestra durante periodos de tiempo de una hora sobre el comportamiento lúdico en entornos de preescolar. Asimismo, los profesores proporcionaron evaluaciones sobre la aceptación de los niños por parte de sus compañeros y sobre el modo en el que se relacionaban socialmente. Tanto los datos obtenidos tras la observación como los informes facilitados por los profesores indicaban que los niños objeto del estudio dedicaban menos tiempo que sus compañeros a las actividades que requerían destrezas sociales. Aunque estos niños participaban en la mayoría de los juegos, lo hacían con menor nivel de interés que el otro grupo cotejado. De esta información se desprende que los niños examinados podian desarrollar los comportamientos sociales y lúdicos en los que se centraron las observaciones. Estos niños con TEA eran capaces de participar más ampliamente en las actividades sociales y lúdicas, puesto que demostraron poseer las destrezas necesarias. Con estos resultados se muestra la necesidad de disponer de un mayor apoyo por parte de los profesores para mantener y aumentar la interacción de estos niños con el resto de sus compañeros y así incrementar su participación en las actividades sociales y lúdicas de los programas inclusivos.

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Copyright information

© Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Learning InnovationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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