The impact of information source on middle school students' attitudes towards peers with autism
Cavanagh, Sarah Elizabeth
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Inclusion of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) into mainstream classrooms is occurring at an increasing rate in schools. Research encourages the use of specific interventions, such as peer-mediated techniques, to foster the successful inclusion of students with ASDs. The potential beneficial impact of typical peers warrants further understanding of the effects of peer training and education about autism. Relevant literature is reviewed, including empirical research regarding peer-mediated interventions, peer attitudes towards disability, theoretical constructs of attitude, and interventions designed to promote attitude change. Educational interventions are emphasized in the review, and conceptualized as an application of social persuasion theory (Campbell, 2006).The purpose of the current study is to add to the research literature regarding educational interventions about autism for typical peers. The study’s goal was to investigate the role of information source on middle school students’ cognitive attitudes and behavioral intentions towards students with autism. Participants (N =773 middle school students) received information about a hypothetical student with autism from four possible sources: Videotape, Teacher, Mother, and Doctor. Measures of the students’ cognitive and conative attitudes and their perception of Source were collected. Analysis of variance, Multivariate analysis of variance, and regression analyses were used to analyze the effect of Source on the students’ attitudes, and their perception of the source’s credibility. Results suggest that using an in-vivo source is more effective than a videotaped message, and teachers are considered less credible than all of the remaining three sources, including videotape.