Electronic Theses and Dissertations


An Examination of the Relationship Between an Autism Label and Teachers' Attitudes, Expectations, and Behavioral Intentions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Alan M. Gross

Second Advisor

John Young

Third Advisor

Kelly G. Wilson


The number of children with autism receiving instruction in the regular education (inclusion) setting has been increasing. Instructional time in inclusion classrooms may offer benefits to children with disabilities; this appears to especially be the case when teachers utilize effective strategies. Prior studies indicate that teachers' attitudes towards children with disabilities are important in their willingness to use such strategies. Unfortunately, a number of findings indicate certain kinds of disabilities, as well as the use of diagnostic labels, may negatively influence teachers' attitudes and behavior toward inclusion. The current study examined the impact of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) label on the attitudes and behavioral intentions of 97 elementary and middle school teachers. Participants were exposed to a vignette of a child displaying social and behavioral difficulties. The child was described as displaying ASD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, educable mental retardation, or no diagnosis provided. Participants completed measures of inclusion attitudes, expectations, and behavioral intentions. Inconsistent with a number of studies, diagnostic labels were not found to be related to teachers' ratings. Similarly, trainings on disabilities, courses in inclusion, and familiarity with children with disabilities were found to have no relationship with teachers' expectations and attitudes. Teachers with less experience and higher self-efficacy predicted more positive attitudes and higher student performance expectations. Implications for these findings are discussed.

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