Source: Issues in Teacher Education, (Fall, 2010), pages 153-169.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
Autism has increased at an unprecedented rate in recent years. The 2005 U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO, 2005) Report to the House of Representatives on Special Education reported a 500% increase in the number of students aged six to 21 identified with autism in the past 10 years.
Given the scarcity of studies examining access to the general curriculum for students with autism, this literature review was expanded to look at the following:
(a) a description of the landscape of curriculum modifications and instructional accommodations for students with autism;
(b) a review of research conducted on the meaning and degree of access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities, since there were none specifically for students with autism;
and (c) specific studies on the inclusion of students with autism.
An abundance of descriptive “how-to” articles and teacher/administrator advice commentaries pervade the literature on curriculum modifications and instructional accommodations.
Generally present in these articles are descriptions of behavioral manifestations of various disabilities and prescriptions for ameliorating challenges of inclusion by detailing strategies general education teachers can use to successfully include students with autism or other disabilities. However, all of these articles failed to support their recommendations with research.
Based on the research of the meaning and degree of access to the general curriculum it is evident that there exist differing views among teachers as to who is supposed to provide access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities. It is also clear that research on the use of curriculum modifications and instructional accommodations has been limited almost exclusively to students with acognitive disability.
Additionally it has been shown that with support, general education teachers can successfully offer access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities. However, many general education teachers lament that they do not have enough training to support students with disabilities in the general education classroom.
Access to the general curriculum is a national concern as evidenced by the National Longitudinal Study-2 (NLTS2) funded by the U.S. DE, Institute of Education Sciences (2009).
Providing access to the general curriculum for students with autism can be particularly challenging for teachers in general education classrooms. This is in part due to the individual student differences in the manifestation of autism, and also because, often, teachers do not have adequate classroom supports (Robertson, Chamberlain, & Kasaril, 2003).
The reviewed studies indicated that progress is being made on the provision of instructional accommodations for students with disabilities that provide access to the general curriculum. However, few of the studies have actually observed what teachers are doing in the classroom to provide access to the general curriculum for students with autism. There exists an alarming absence of any research that clarifies what general education teachers are doing to provide access to the general curriculum for students with disabilities in general. Less is known about what is being done for students with autism, which is a quickly expanding population of students.
Recommendations for further research include a thorough examination of how general education teachers are providing access to the general curriculum for students with autism and other disabilities.
Roberston, K., Chamberlain, B., & Kasaril, C. (2003). General education teachers’ relationships with included students with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(2), 607-619.
U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2005). Report to the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness, Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives: Special education, children with autism. (GAO-05-220). Washington, DC: Author.