Barbara Helen JacobsHow can autistic intelligence be recognised and accommodated withinan inclusive education framework?
The aims of this study were twofold and integrated. The first was to explorewhether Hans Asperger’s expression ‘autistic intelligence’ was a valid andpossibly helpful concept to educators. The second was to discover whether this theorised cognitive style could be accommodated within an inclusiveeducation framework. Four students on the autism spectrum, in mainstreamschools, their parents and their teachers were interviewed in a case-studyapproach, to analyse their beliefs and understandings about autism.Data analysis showed that parents and students in particular believed autismto involve a recognisable cognitive style. It tended, they said, to have sensoryelements which impacted upon engagement and learning, and appeared togive rise to some social difficulties. These in turn were thought to impact uponthe emotional wellbeing of students on the autism spectrum. Significantbullying and exclusion of these students was reported. They recognised their ‘difference’ from their peers and attempted to negotiate that difference.However, teachers tended to reject the concept of ‘labelling’ these students.These findings in part reflect developing current theoretical and cognitiveneuroscience consensus supporting a theorised Local Processing Bias asperhaps being a key element in defining core characteristics of autism. Additionally the research showed that the inclusive framework was perceivedto be failing these students in many ways. In particular, the difficulties inobtaining educational help and support were believed, by students and their parents, to be obstructive. Another area of concern was the use of teachingassistants as the main educational intervention offered.The inclusive framework, according to these stakeholders, appears to havelittle recognition of or accommodation for what might be called autisticintelligence. Yet this might possibly be accomplished by making someenvironmental adaptations. The concept of autistic intelligence, with itstheorised perceptual bias, might be useful in considering the nature of anyadaptations.