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Teaching children with autism spectrum disorder with restricted interests : a review of evidence for best practice

Gunn, Kerry C. M. and Delafield-Butt, Jonathan T. (2016) Teaching children with autism spectrum disorder with restricted interests : a review of evidence for best practice. Review of Educational Research, 86 (2). pp. 408-430. ISSN 1935-1046

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Abstract

Inclusive education requires teachers to adapt to children’s learning styles. Children with autism spectrum disorder bring challenges to classroom teach- ing, often exhibiting interests restricted to particular topics. Teachers can be faced with a dilemma either to accommodate these restricted interests (RIs) into teaching or to keep them out of the classroom altogether. In this article, we examined all peer-reviewed studies of teaching children with autism spec- trum disorder with RIs published between 1990 and 2014. We find that posi- tive gains in learning and social skills can be achieved by incorporating children’s RIs into classroom practice: Of 20 published studies that examined 91 children, all reported gains in educational attainment and/or social engagement. Negative consequences were limited to a decrease in task per- formance in one child and a transient increase in perseverative behaviors in two children. The evidence supports the inclusion of RIs into classroom prac- tice. Methods of inclusion of RIs are discussed in light of practical difficulties and ideal outcomes.