Clare Lawrence


Consideration of attitudes towards people with disabilities has been the subject of study for many years (e.g. (Kenneth, Antonak and Livneh, 1989; Campbell, Gilmore and Cuskelly, 2003; Praisner, 2003), although trainee teachers’ preconception of autistic pupils specifically has not been addressed. The purpose of this study was to determine whether previous exposure to autistic individuals influences trainee teachers’ initial attitudes towards autistic pupils. 84 trainee teachers with equal exposure to autism education during their undergraduate degree in Primary Education self-catagorised themselves as ‘knowing’ or ‘not knowing’ an autistic individual and were asked to write a brief description of their expectations of how autism might present in a pupil. Responses were compared. Findings were that those with or without personal experience did not show significant differences in their broad descriptions of the presentation of autism, but descriptions by those with personal experience focused more on communication and less on social aspects than those without and were more positive, more varied, more specific and less ‘generic’. Implications for teacher education are discussed.