Does using the interests of children with ASD support or hinder learning?

Teaching Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder With Restricted Interests

A Review of Evidence for Best Practice

  1. Kerry C. M. Gunn
  2. Jonathan T. Delafield-Butt
    University of Strathclyde


Inclusive education requires teachers to adapt to children’s learning styles. Children with autism spectrum disorder bring challenges to classroom teaching, often exhibiting interests restricted to particular topics. Teachers can be faced with a dilemma either to accommodate these restricted interests (RIs) into teaching or to keep them out of the classroom altogether. In this article, we examined all peer-reviewed studies of teaching children with autism spectrum disorder with RIs published between 1990 and 2014. We find that positive gains in learning and social skills can be achieved by incorporating children’s RIs into classroom practice: Of 20 published studies that examined 91 children, all reported gains in educational attainment and/or social engagement. Negative consequences were limited to a decrease in task performance in one child and a transient increase in perseverative behaviors in two children. The evidence supports the inclusion of RIs into classroom practice. Methods of inclusion of RIs are discussed in light of practical difficulties and ideal outcomes.

Read the article on the review of education research website

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