How Do Typically Developing Undergraduate Students Reason about Including Peers with ASD?

Friday, May 12, 2017: 5:00 PM-6:30 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
K. Bottema-Beutel1, S. Y. Kim1, S. Crowley1 and D. B. Miele2, (1)Lynch School of Education, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA, (2)Applied Developmental Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background: Increasing numbers of students with ASD are entering post-secondary education, but there is little research to support meaningful inclusion in these environments (Newman et al., 2011). This study explores how undergraduate students evaluate and reason about hypothetical scenarios in which a protagonist does not invite a target student to a social event based on the target’s disability status. When reasoning about exclusion, individuals often rely on moral justifications, which pertain to welfare, justice, and rights. How different justifications are prioritized influence individual’s ultimate evaluations as to whether exclusion is right or wrong. Evaluations and reasoning about social issues can vary by the context in which the social event occurs, and the characteristics of the person being excluded (see Smetana, 2006 for a review).

Objectives: To determine if the probability that:

  • Participants’ evaluations regarding the permissibility of the protagonist’s decision varies according to the social context and the target’s disability (ASD vs Learning Disability [LD]).
  • Participants’ use of moral justifications to explain why failing to include is permissible varies by context and the target’s disability.

Methods: One-hundred fifty undergraduate students were administered two versions of three different vignettes in which a protagonist chooses not to invite an individual with a disability (the target) to a social gathering. The target is identified as having ASD in one version of the vignettes, and LD in the second version. The social scenarios in each vignette varied from private (a party in one’s dorm) to public (a school cafeteria and admission to a university). Participants were asked to evaluate whether the protagonist’s decision is acceptable or unacceptable (evaluation) and indicate their reasoning (justification). Mixed-effects logistic regression was used to account for the nesting of responses within participants.

Results: Preliminary findings from 55 participants indicated that, for participants’ evaluations, there was a main effect for disability but not context. Participants were more likely to consider the protagonist’s decision acceptable when the target had ASD as compared to LD (OR = 6.28, p= .006). Moral justifications for why failing to include was acceptable were more likely to be given when the character had an ASD as compared to LD (OR = 8.48, p < .001) and in the university as compared to the party context (OR = 3.21, p < .001). Finally, there was an interaction between the university context and disability (p= .01). The odds of using moral justifications to indicate why it was permissible not to include a student with a disability at a university was 27.18 if the target had ASD, and 8.67 if the target had LD. In non-university contexts, odds were .85 for ASD and 2.62 for LD.

Conclusions: These findings show that university students find it more acceptable not to include students with ASD as compared to LD, and use moral justifications to support their evaluation. Students may feel that, in certain contexts, including students with ASD may inhibit their well-being. University students may need information regarding the value of including students with ASD in contexts related to university life.