Participation in the inclusive classroom: Creating success for non-verbal students with autism

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Douglas Biklen


Participation, Inclusive, Success, Autism, Nonverbal students

Subject Categories

Disability and Equity in Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | Special Education and Teaching


This is a qualitative study of five elementary school teachers for non-verbal students with autism in inclusive classrooms. Traditionally non-verbal students with autism have experienced widespread educational segregation and have further been denied the opportunity to participate in an academic education. This educational banishment ascribes to a pessimistic view of the educational possibilities for non-verbal students with autism.

Utilizing qualitative research methods, including participant observation and interviewing, I entered teachers classrooms where there was educational hope and opportunity represented for non-verbal students with autism. I sought to understand the perspective and experiences of teachers who resisted the understanding of the non-verbal student with autism as an educational outsider.

Following five teachers in two different schools over almost two school years lead to a qualitative analysis that represented how teachers' hopeful educational visions and philosophies led them to engage the non-verbal students with autism in their classes in academic instruction. Further teachers resisted the dominant representation of their students as mentally retarded and worked to understand their students' intelligence through observation within the daily routine of the classroom.


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