School participation of autistic youths: The influence of youth, family and school factors

Boya Li*, David Heyne, Anke Scheeren, Els Blijd-Hoogewys, Carolien Rieffe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Abstract

Many autistic youths experience restricted school participation. The present study investigated the influences of youth, family and school factors on autistic youths’ school participation. Parents of 200 Dutch autistic youths (age range: 4–16 years, Mage = 12.23 years, SDage = 2.93 years) filled in questionnaires in a national survey for autistic individuals, reporting the school participation, age and autistic traits of their child, parents’ education level and self-efficacy for supporting their child’s schoolwork, and the impact of problems their child experienced with the physical and social environments of the school. Multivariate linear regression analysis using imputed data revealed that among the six predictor variables, only the impact of problems autistic youths experienced with the physical environment of school was negatively associated with their school participation. This study provided support for the essential role of the school environment in predicting autistic youths’ school participation, indicating that problematic aspects in the school environment could have a greater impact on autistic youths’ school participation than youth factors or family factors. This highlights the need to create a more accommodating environment at school, where autistic youths can participate easily and comfortably. Lay abstract: School-aged youths have a basic human right to participate in educational and recreational activities at school. Yet, autistic youths are at high risk of being excluded from school and from school-based activities. It is important to understand how this occurs, to ensure that all autistic youths have opportunities to participate in school activities that are equal to the opportunities of their non-autistic peers. The present study investigated multiple influences on the school participation of autistic youths, including youth factors (age and autistic traits), family factors (parent education level and parental self-efficacy for supporting their child’s schoolwork) and school factors (the impact of problems autistic youths experienced with the physical and social environments of school). Using an online survey, we gathered the views and experiences of the parents of 200 autistic youths aged between 4 and 16 years, in the Netherlands. We found that among the factors, only the impact of problems that autistic youths experienced with the physical environment of school was associated with their school participation. In particular, autistic youths who experienced greater difficulties with the physical environment of school had lower levels of school participation. Our findings highlight the pressing need to modify school environments to better accommodate the needs of autistic youths so that they can participate easily and comfortably.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalAutism
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 4 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • autistic traits
  • autistic youth
  • physical environment
  • school participation
  • social environment

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