The Trauma of Broad-Based Inclusion for Students with Autism

  • Gary Shkedy Alternative Teaching Strategy Center, U.S.A.
  • Aileen Herlinda Sandoval-Norton The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, U.S.A.
  • Dalia Shkedy Alternative Teaching Strategy Center, U.S.A.
Keywords: autism, inclusion, education, neurodevelopmental, trauma


Inclusion is a model where students with disabilities spend most/all of their time in an educational setting with non-disabled students. This model has led many countries to pass laws requiring disabled students be educated in the least restrictive environment: they should be educated with students without disabilities to the maximum extent possible. However, this model ignores the very nature of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The autistic brain is different in both function and structure, making deficits in social interaction, inherent and appropriate for their development. This paper explores research on the autistic brain, comorbidities, child development, and trauma associated with forced inclusion for this population. Research on brain function indicates inclusion can be very stressful and can produce anxiety and post-traumatic stress in children with ASD.


Amaral, D. G., Bauman, M. D., & Mills Schumann, C. (2003). The amygdala and autism: implications from non‐human primate studies. Genes, Brain and Behavior, 2(5), 295-302.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.
Baghdadli, A., Assouline, B., Sonié, S., Pernon, E., Darrou, C., Michelon, C., Picot, M. C., Aussilous, C., & Pry, R. (2012). Developmental trajectories of adaptive behaviors from early childhood to adolescence in a cohort of 152 children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(7), 1314-1325.
Baghdadli, A., Pascal, C., Grisi, S., & Aussilloux, C. (2003). Risk factors for self‐injurious behaviours among 222 young children with autistic disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 47(8), 622-627.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (n.d.). BCBA Requirements. Retrieved March, 16, 2020. Retrieved from
Baron‐Cohen, S. (1989). Perceptual role taking and protodeclarative pointing in autism. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 7(2), 113-127.
Cloitre, M., Stolbach, B. C., Herman, J. L., Kolk, B. V. D., Pynoos, R., Wang, J., & Petkova, E. (2009). A developmental approach to complex PTSD: Childhood and adult cumulative trauma as predictors of symptom complexity. Journal of traumatic stress, 22(5), 399-408.
Cook, A., Spinazzola, J., Ford, J., Lanktree, C., Blaustein, M., Cloitre, M., DeRosa, R., Hubbard, R., Kagan, R., Liataud, J., Mallah, K., Olafson, E., & van der Kolk, B., (2017). Complex trauma in children and adolescents. Psychiatric annals, 35(5), 390-398.
Corden, B., Chilvers, R., & Skuse, D. (2008). Avoidance of emotionally arousing stimuli predicts social–perceptual impairment in Asperger's syndrome. Neuropsychologia, 46(1), 137-147.
Dalton, K. M., Nacewicz, B. M., Johnstone, T., Schaefer, H. S., Gernsbacher, M. A., Goldsmith, H. H., Alexander, A. L., & Davidson, R. J. (2005). Gaze fixation and the neural circuitry of face processing in autism. Nature neuroscience, 8(4), 519. https://doi:10.1038/nn1421
Dichter, G. S., Felder, J. N., & Bodfish, J. W. (2009). Autism is characterized by dorsal anterior cingulate hyperactivation during social target detection. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 4(3), 215-226.
Duerden, E. G., Oatley, H. K., Mak-Fan, K. M., McGrath, P. A., Taylor, M. J., Szatmari, P., & Roberts, S. W. (2012). Risk factors associated with self-injurious behaviors in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 42(11), 2460-2470.
Haruvi-Lamdan, N., Horesh, D., & Golan, O. (2018). PTSD and autism spectrum disorder: Co-morbidity, gaps in research, and potential shared mechanisms. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.
Higgins, E. S., & George, M. S. (2013). Neuroscience of clinical psychiatry: The pathophysiology of behavior and mental illness. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Humphrey, N., & Lewis, S. (2008). “Make Me Normal” the Views and Experiences of Pupils on the Autistic Spectrum in Mainstream Secondary Schools. Autism, 12(1), 23-46.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997. 612(a) (5).
Individuals with Disability Education Act. (2017, May 3). Sec. 300.530 (f). Retrieved March 16, 2020, from
Kellerman, G. R., Fan, J., & Gorman, J. M. (2005). Auditory abnormalities in autism: Toward functional distinctions among findings. CNS Spectrums.
Leekam, S. R., Nieto, C., Libby, S. J., Wing, L., & Gould, J. (2007). Describing the sensory abnormalities of children and adults with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Lord, C., Risi, S., & Pickles, A. (2004). Trajectory of language development in autistic spectrum disorders. In Developmental language disorders (pp. 18-41). Psychology Press.
Maiano, C., Normand, C. L., Salvas, M. C., Moullec, G., & Aimé, A. (2016). Prevalence of school bullying among youth with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Autism research, 9(6), 601-615.
Markram, K., & Markram, H. (2010). The intense world theory–a unifying theory of the neurobiology of autism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 4, 224.
Martineau, J., Andersson, F., Barthélémy, C., Cottier, J. P., & Destrieux, C. (2010). Atypical activation of the mirror neuron system during perception of hand motion in autism. Brain research, 1320, 168-175.
Maurice, C. E., Green, G. E., & Luce, S. C. (1996). Behavioral intervention for young children with autism: A manual for parents and professionals. Pro-ed.
Mayes, S. D., Gorman, A. A., Hillwig-Garcia, J., & Syed, E. (2013). Suicide ideation and attempts in children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 7(1), 109-119.
Minshawi, N. F., Hurwitz, S., Fodstad, J. C., Biebl, S., Morriss, D. H., & McDougle, C. J. (2014). The association between self-injurious behaviors and autism spectrum disorders. Psychology research and behavior management, 7, 125.
Myers, D. G., & DeWall, C. N. (2017). Psychology in everyday life. New York: Worth, Macmillan Learning.
National Autistic Society (2006). B is for bullied. London: National Autistic Society.
Park, W. J., Schauder, K. B., Zhang, R., Bennetto, L., & Tadin, D. (2017). High internal noise and poor external noise filtering characterize perception in autism spectrum disorder. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 17584.
Pelphrey, K. A., Sasson, N. J., Reznick, J. S., Paul, G., Goldman, B. D., & Piven, J. (2002). Visual scanning of faces in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(4), 249-261.
Perry, B. D., Pollard, R. A., Blakley, T. L., Baker, W. L., & Vigilante, D. (1995). Childhood trauma, the neurobiology of adaptation, and “use‐dependent” development of the brain: How “states” become “traits”. Infant Mental Health Journal, 16(4), 271-291.<271::AID-IMHJ2280160404>3.0.CO;2-B
Rattaz, C., Michelon, C., & Baghdadli, A. (2015). Symptom severity as a risk factor for self‐injurious behaviours in adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 59(8), 730-741.
Richards, C., Oliver, C., Nelson, L., & Moss, J. (2012). Self‐injurious behaviour in individuals with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56(5), 476-489.
Richer, J. M., & Coss, R. G. (1976). Gaze aversion in autistic and normal children. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 53(3), 193-210.
Riquelme, I., Hatem, S. M., & Montoya, P. (2016). Abnormal Pressure Pain, Touch Sensitivity, Proprioception, and Manual Dexterity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Neural Plasticity.
Rutherford, M. D., & Towns, A. M. (2008). Scan path differences and similarities during emotion perception in those with and without autism spectrum disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 38(7), 1371-1381.
Senju, A., & Johnson, M. H. (2009). The eye contact effect: mechanisms and development. Trends in cognitive sciences, 13(3), 127-134.
Sigman, M., & McGovern, C. W. (2005). Improvement in cognitive and language skills from preschool to adolescence in autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(1), 15-23.
Soke, G. N., Rosenberg, S. A., Hamman, R. F., Fingerlin, T., Robinson, C., Carpenter, L., Giarello, E., Lee, L., Wiggins, L. D., Durkin, M. S., & DiGuiseppi, C. (2016). Brief report: prevalence of self-injurious behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder—a population-based study. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 46(11), 3607-3614.
Streeck-Fischer, A., & van der Kolk, B. A. (2000). Down will come baby, cradle and all: Diagnostic and therapeutic implications of chronic trauma on child development. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 34(6), 903-918.
Symes, W., & Humphrey, N. (2010). Peer-group indicators of social inclusion among pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) in mainstream secondary schools: A comparative study. School Psychology International, 31(5), 478-494.
Tomchek, S. D., & Dunn, W. (2007). Sensory processing in children with and without autism: A comparative study using the short sensory profile. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 61(2), 190-200.
Tomchek, S. D., Huebner, R. A., & Dunn, W. (2014). Patterns of sensory processing in children with an autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2005). The Condition of Education 2005 (NCES 2005–094). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Quill, K. A. (1997). Instructional considerations for young children with autism: The rationale for visually cued instruction. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 27(6), 697-714.
Zablotsky, B., Bradshaw, C. P., Anderson, C. M., & Law, P. (2014). Risk factors for bullying among children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism, 18(4), 419-427.