Section Name

Research Articles


The interactive nature of basic communication courses creates an ideal environment for students to form connections with their peers. Unfortunately, when students on the autism spectrum display atypical communication and behaviors, their classmates often reject and isolate them. Basic course programs can change these social dynamics through building connected classrooms and proactively fostering inclusion. Understanding peer perceptions and willingness to engage with autistic students is necessary, as peers play a central role in creating connected classrooms. This investigation explores basic communication course peers’ knowledge of how autism can influence students; peer perceptions of full inclusion of students on the autism spectrum in the basic course; and peers’ desire to learn more about how to support autistic classmates in basic communication courses. Open-ended responses (N = 216) to an online survey revealed an awareness that students on the autism spectrum can face a variety of obstacles in communication classrooms. Peers also expressed a strong preference for inclusion of autistic students, but often without expectation for their full participation in the basic course. Too many of these students held stigmatizing beliefs about their autistic peers that need to be challenged and changed through intervention. Finally, most respondents indicated a desire to learn more about how to effectively communicate with and become an ally to autistic peers on their campus. Implications and strategies to promote inclusivity in basic course programs are discussed.



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