Parental beliefs towards the inclusion of autistic children in mainstream schools

Wilson, Claire and McKinlay, Jack and Ballantyne, Carrie and Toye, Martin K. (2024) Parental beliefs towards the inclusion of autistic children in mainstream schools. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. pp. 1-16. ISSN 1465-346X (

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Research has examined teacher attitudes, knowledge, and stigma towards inclusion of autistic children in mainstream schools. Less focus has been given to these beliefs among parents. This is problematic as parents are important in the implementation of inclusion and fostering a positive school environment. The current study examined differences in autism attitudes, knowledge, stigma, and inclusive education attitudes (core perspective; expected outcomes; classroom practices) among parents with and without an autistic child; The study also investigated whether autism knowledge, attitudes and stigma predicted inclusion attitudes. 185 parents (52% had an autistic child) completed questionnaires measuring these variables. Parents of an autistic child had significantly higher core perspective inclusive attitudes than parents without an autistic child. However, this group also reported more beliefs that parents of autistic children are stigmatised. For all parents, core perspective inclusive attitudes were predicted by autism attitudes and stigma towards parents of autistic children. Predictors of expected outcomes and classroom practices inclusive attitudes differed between groups. Findings highlight the need for parental attitudes research to be disability specific and consider different aspects of inclusive attitudes. Parent education to enhance inclusive attitudes should be tailored for distinct parent groups and contact interventions should be considered.