Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities

, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 377–397

A Descriptive Analysis of Middle School Students’ Conceptions of Autism

  • Jonathan M. Campbell
  • Jane F. Morton
  • Kathryn Roulston
  • Brian D. Barger
ORIGINAL ARTICLE

DOI: 10.1007/s10882-011-9234-4

Cite this article as:
Campbell, J.M., Morton, J.F., Roulston, K. et al. J Dev Phys Disabil (2011) 23: 377. doi:10.1007/s10882-011-9234-4

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to document the content and accuracy of middle school students’ spontaneously generated definitions of autism in order to inform future peer education interventions. Authors evaluated 450 middle school students’ written definitions of autism for accuracy and content. Most students (n = 321; 71.3%) provided accurate definitions of autism; the remaining definitions consisted of (a) a combination of accurate and inaccurate information (n = 45; 10.0%), (b) reporting “Don’t know” (n = 43; 9.6%), (c) inaccurate information (n = 20; 4.4%), and (d) combinations of uncertainty in the presence of accurate and inaccurate information (n = 21; 4.6%). Accurate responses reflected only basic understanding that autism was a disability; few accurate responses identified social, communicative, or restrictive patterns of behavior as core difficulties for individuals with autism. Middle school students reported inaccurate information across varied content, such as etiology, core symptoms, and associated problems. Results suggest that peer education messages should highlight information regarding the defining features, etiology, consequences, and outcomes related to autism.

Keywords

Autism Peers Middle school Knowledge Misperceptions 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan M. Campbell
    • 1
  • Jane F. Morton
    • 1
  • Kathryn Roulston
    • 2
  • Brian D. Barger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional TechnologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and PolicyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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