Enhancing Positive Behavioral Intentions of Typical Children towards Children with Autism

Article excerpt

Abstract

This experimental study examined the potential additive benefit of peer strategies (PS) and strengths information (SI) over descriptive and explanatory (D+E) information in enhancing typical children's behavioral intentions and cognitive attitudes towards children with autism. Participants were 158 typical students from fourth, fifth and sixth grades who were assigned to groups viewing videos about autism: Video I (D+E), Video II (D+E+PS), Video III (D+E+SI) or Video IV (D+E+PS+SI). Analyses indicated significant differences in positive behavioral intentions but no attitude differences after watching the videos. Participants who viewed videos incorporating peer strategies (Videos II and IV) had significantly greater positive behavioral intentions than those who viewed the video incorporating strengths information (Video III). Video interventions can help enhance typical children's behavioral intentions towards children with autism.

Keywords: autistic disorder, attitude, intentions, peer group, schools

Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder that begins in infancy and is characterized by severe impairments in social interaction and language, deviance in communication, repetitive and obsessive behaviors, and narrowly-focused and rigid interests (Volkmar & Pauls, 2003). The increasing incidence and prevalence of autism spectrum disorders have received a great deal of current national attention. Autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disorder in the United States and more children will receive a diagnosis of autism than of AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined (Autism Speaks, 2012). According to the CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, approximately 1 in 88 children is currently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Moreover, studies in Asia, Europe and North America reveal that the average prevalence rate of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is approximately 1% (CDC, 2012).

Although the etiology, pathophysiology and genetic transmission of autism can be controversial and not completely understood, autism may best be perceived as a heterogeneous disorder, resulting from multiple genetic and environmental factors, which are often exacerbated by neurologic, cytogenetic, neurotransmitter, and immunologic abnormalities (Hollander, DelGiudice-Asch, & Simon, 1999).

Risk for Rejection and Stigmatization

Children with autism are at particular risk for rejection and stigmatization by peers. Despite their often typical appearance, children with autism often display severe and disruptive antisocial behaviors, self-destructive acts, inappropriate public behaviors (i.e., crying, moaning, leaning back), and tantrums which often lead to this stigmatization. This combination of a typical physical appearance and highly disruptive behavior often stigmatizes parents of children with autism, as well. These parents are typically met with hostile, insensitive and negative reactions by the public, given the common public's lack of understanding and knowledge of autism (Gray, 2002). These disruptive behaviors coupled with a typical physical appearance cause children with autism to be judged more severely than other children with disabilities (Chambres, Auxiette, Vansingle & Gil, 2008).

Children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) report fewer friends and more negative experiences, such as bullying and shunning in comparison to typical children and adolescents (Koning & Magill-Evans, 2001). However, children with autism are perceived more favorably by adults when these individuals are informed of the child's autism diagnosis (Chambres et al., 2008). This study suggests that individuals can modify their standard of comparison and compare a child with autism to other children with autism rather than to a typical child (Chambres et al., 2008).

Unfortunately, the lack of effective social interaction skills among children with autism further exacerbates their maladaptive behaviors and poor peer outcomes. …