Campus Location

Dallas Campus (Online)

Date of Award


Document Type



Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Jennifer T. Butcher

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Sandra Harris

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Heather N. Rasmussen


The problem that drove this study was the increasing number of students with autism entering the school system, and the barriers often encountered for both academic and social inclusion for students on the autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorder, as defined by diagnostic criteria, includes deficits in social-relational communication; social-communication deficits can lead to educational impacts and limit opportunities upon transitioning from the public-school system. The purpose of this study was to examine the barriers to inclusion, which often includes the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) eligibility process itself, from the perspectives of key stakeholders to include Local Education Agency (LEA) representatives, educators, parents of students on the autism spectrum, and those over the age of 18 diagnosed with autism who attended public school. A phenomenological, qualitative study with a critical paradigm was conducted to incorporate 4 populations’ individual experiences and perspectives concerning barriers encountered to inclusion as well as suggestions for better practices through and reported successes. This research study examined the phenomena or experience of the 4 different populations to include 9 administrators/LEA representatives, 11 educators, 8 parents, and 7 former students of the public education system. The findings suggest several barriers to inclusion from each perspective and that collaboration of the IEP team is key to the development and implementation of successful IEPS that include both academic and social inclusion goals. Suggestions for inclusive education were explored, described, and outlined from those who experienced the process of or lack of inclusive practices and those who strive to create inclusive environments for students on the autism spectrum.


This study examined and discussed barriers to academic and social inclusion for students on the autism spectrum in the public-school system. A school system in Georgia, as well as educators from NC and SC, helped share their experiences and insights and suggestions for inclusion. Parents from VA, NC, SC, and GA shared their experiences and insights of both victories and battles in educational inclusion for their children with autism. However, students on the autism spectrum were given a voice to share their experiences, thoughts, dreams, and pave the way for better inclusion and acceptance from peers, educators, and greater community for better inclusion for people on the autism spectrum.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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