School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Janet Deck


autism spectrum disorder, intellectual impairment, inclusion, elementary school


Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the experiences with inclusion for parents of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and combined intellectual impairment in elementary schools in the United States. The theory guiding this study is Bandura’s theory on social cognitive learning as it applies to students with disabilities learning from observing their peers without disabilities. This study design was a transcendental phenomenological qualitative design to explore multiple parents’ unique experiences with the same phenomenon—inclusion for their child with ASD. Participants were chosen using criterion and snowball sampling from social media groups and live across the United States. Data were collected via interviews, focus groups, and document analysis. The data were analyzed using the modified Stevick Colaizzi-Keen method from Moustakas. The data analysis led to four major themes: (a) adult support in inclusion, (b) peer relationships, (c) “closing the gap,” and (d) IEP participation. These results indicate an ongoing need for teachers to communicate and include parents in the decision-making processes for children with ASD and intellectual impairments. Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, intellectual impairment, inclusion, elementary school