To include or not to include : Teachers’ social representations of inclusion of students with Asperger syndrome

Sammanfattning: Evidence on inclusive classrooms shows that successful implementation of inclusion can lead to increased social involvement, personal well-being and higher levels of academic performance compared with segregated provision. Despite these potential benefits inclusion of students with Asperger syndrome (AS) in the mainstream classroom is problematic. Support from teachers is a key strategy for accommodating students with AS diagnosis in the mainstream classroom. Less well is understood how teachers create an inclusive environment for these learners. Teachers’ social representations (SR), have a bearing on how they interact and accommodate, therefore the first aim of this dissertation was to explore teachers’ SR of students with AS. The second aim was to highlight the role of contextual factors and prior experience in forming SR. The third aim was to study the link between teachers’ individual practice and broader institutional forces by comparing the SRs among principals, school health professionals and teachers. The forth aim was to study what teacher factors predict teachers’ positive attitudes towards inclusion of students with AS.The findings show that a medical approach seems to dominate especially earlier trained teachers’ SRs; however, there is a tendency to view the environment increasingly important. Our results suggest that experience with students with AS is related to teachers' SR of these students. In addition, our data indicate that there is a need to bridge the gap between the organizational level, the classroom level and the individual student level in order to reduce barriers for students with AS to fit into an inclusive environment. Finally, positive attitudes towards inclusion of students with AS were found to relate to teachers’ knowledge of teaching students with AS and their attitudes towards students with AS. To conclude teachers’ SRs are deeply seated and the first step is to bring them to the forefront so that teachers are aware of them. In addition, there is a need for team building in the school arena to achieve a common vision for an inclusive school.