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Patti Barrows


As the number of students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) increases, many classrooms are turning to an inclusion model of learning. To gain the perspective of program users rather than providers, this study explored parents' perceptions of the inclusion model. Pearlin's stress process model served as the theoretical framework for this study. Ten parents in Pennsylvania were recruited via snowball sampling for participation, and 7 completed the study. Parents completed a short demographic questionnaire and then participated in individual interviews. The research questions were concerned with the lived experiences of parents of children with autism enrolled in inclusion programs or who have participated in inclusion programs within the past 5 years, their perceived roles, and the stresses they felt in those roles. Transcripts were iteratively reviewed to identify consistent themes across interviews. Findings from this study showed: (a) the inclusion model of education had both positive and negative effects on different children diagnosed with autism, (b) the development of emotional skills of children with autism enriched their participation and social relationships with other people, and (c) a strengthened support system for children with autism must be advocated through accessible information and services. These findings support available literature, which is largely against the inclusion model. Findings suggest that support systems for information dissemination should be strengthened, and educators should develop their emotional skills to help students with disabilities.

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