Middle school students’ beliefs about unfamiliar peers with autism: examining gender differences

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Nicole Dawn Dennis (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/
Jonathan Campbell

Abstract: The American Psychiatric Association (2013) defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized, in part by social communication impairments. With the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 1997), students with ASD have been increasingly placed in general education classrooms with the objective being to improve these students’ social skills and academic development (Chamberlain et al., 2007). However, students with ASD face challenges to being fully included in the general education setting (Chamberlain et al., 2007; Rotherham-Fuller et al., 2010; Locke et al., 2010). To mitigate these challenges, peer interventionists help foster the social engagement of students with ASD (Wong et al., 2015; Hume & Campbell, 2019). In order to select effective peer interventionists, it is important to understand factors, such as knowledge of ASD, attitudes about ASD, peer gender, and self-efficacious beliefs, that may influence their perceptions and behavioral intentions towards students with ASD. This study aimed to investigate how student’s gender, knowledge of ASD, and gender of a student with ASD influenced their attitudes towards peers with ASD as well as their own self-efficacious beliefs about serving as a peer interventionist. Recruitment was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as many schools had restrictions in place to maintain student safety. Middle school students (n = 33) were recruited from schools in Western North Carolina and asked to answer questionnaires, after reading vignettes that varied on whether the student was depicted as a boy or a girl with ASD and whether or not an explanation of ASD was present. Because of COVID-19, many of the data collection sessions were conducted virtually. Multifactorial ANOVAs were conducted to determine if these variables influenced peers’ attitudes and feelings of self-efficacy. A multiple regression was used to determine what sources of self-efficacy contributed to these self-efficacious beliefs. Nonparametric analyses were conducted when the sample did not meet normality assumptions. Students felt more capable of working with a girl with ASD compared to a boy with ASD, and physiological states significantly influenced middle schoolers’ feelings of self-efficacy in serving as a peer interventionist. Future research should continue to explore the impact gender and sources of self-efficacy have on children’s attitudes and beliefs about peers with ASD.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2021
Attitudes, Autism, Gender Differences, Peer Interventionists, Self-efficacy
Attitude (Psychology)
Sex differences
Middle school students

Email this document to