Dialectical Dimensions on Inclusive Education : Involving Students with Autism Spectrum Conditions

Abstract: Purpose: The aim of this essay and its contribution to research is to identify the opportunities, pitfalls, and dilemmas that can arise when inclusive education is organized with regard to students with ASC. In order to create more understanding of the situation for students with ASC in schools, the study focus on school leadership.Sub-studies: The essay consists of two studies. In the first study (1) the aim was to identify, describe, and analyze different research approaches to inclusive education and social participation for students with ASC, by performing a systematic research review. In the second study (2) principals of Swedish schools were interviewed, data collection was divided into three sets of interviews based on and using two models as tools in the analysis process. The models are the Index of Inclusion (Ainscow & Booth 2002) and three key concepts for inclusive school leadership (European Agency of Special Needs and Inclusive Education 2018; Óskarsdottir et al. 2020).Theory: A dialectical approach (Clark, Dyson & Millward 1995; 1998) or the dilemma perspective (Nilholm 2003) have been used as a theoretical lens. This approach aims to provide a dynamic and abductive reasoning for the overall analysis in the essay, since inclusive education appears to create dilemmas when societal cultures and norms, bureaucracy, and structures meet. The analysis demonstrates that inclusive processes appear as dilemma-creating at different levels in the system and addresses democracy in terms of social justice.Method: Crystallization is a term that relates to the practice of using multiple data sources and results, research approaches and lenses (Ellingson 2008; Tracy 2010), which leads to a more complex understanding being opened up in the overall analysis.Knowledge contribution: Inclusion is mainly interpreted as the students’ experience of being socially accepted and having access to academic education and the curriculum. Principals’ feeling of loneliness in relation to their superiors—they need to fight for their students and their staff against decisionmakers higher up in the education system hierarchy. At the same time, it is noted that principals have agreat deal of freedom in their practice, but the issue of communication needs to be raised and support for principals is important. A discussion is needed about whose perspective is the prevailing one in decisionmaking processes in schools and in the school system.Limitations: The data collection of the second study (2) took place via virtual meetings due to the pandemic. Virtual meetings are limited by the lack of being able to observe the interviewee's body language and nonverbal communication, as well as a small sample of respondents. These limitations affect the essay in general and thus to some extent reduce the possibility of generalizing the results.Practical implications: This essay can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the inclusion concept in relation to students with ASC. It can potentially initiate forums for further discussions on the working conditions of principals in relation to their responsibilities and the expectations placed upon them. In addition, to conduct a continuous discussion about the importance of authenticity and accountability for all professionals in the school and its stakeholders. Development and improvement of structures that facilitate the inclusion of the student voice in decision-making processes are also seen as important.

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