Preparing Students with ASD for Inclusive Classrooms: A Case Study of Giant Steps
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Giant Steps is a therapeutic school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) founded in 1995 by a group of parents who felt that the public school system was not fully able to meet the needs of their children. While the education system has progressed through the years to offer all students with access to public education, many educators still are not adequately prepared to provide inclusive learning environments for students with ASD. Given the prevalence of ASD in southern Ontario (1 in every 42 boys and 1 in every 189 girls), research on ASD and inclusive practices is both vital and timely. The purpose of this qualitative case study is to understand how the Giant Steps program prepares and transitions students with ASD for inclusive classrooms. Data was collected through two rounds of in-depth interviews, and was subsequently analyzed and interpreted into research findings that are presented through three major themes (i.e., unique program aspects, holistic approach, inclusion not integration). Collectively, the themes provide insights about how students at Giant Steps are prepared for inclusion, as well as how different stakeholders within the Giant Steps program perceive inclusion and their role in preparing students for inclusive classrooms.