To date there have been no formal prevalence studies conducted to identify the number of children with Asperger's syndrome who attend school in a mainstream classroom setting. Given, however, that the academic performance of the student with Asperger's syndrome will generally range from the adequate to the exceptional, many (if not most) of such students will spend the majority of their school years in an inclusive classroom. Unfortunately, it is a well-acknowledged fact that academic performance alone does not guarantee 'school success'. Thus, with their lack of social skills and understanding, the student with Asperger's syndrome will frequently experience great difficulty, if not failure, in the general education environment.
The aim of the present study was to assess the efficacy of a teacher-training programme targeting the management of students with Asperger's syndrome in the mainstream classroom setting. Fifty-eight primary and high school teachers were randomly assigned to an intervention or treatment-as-usual control group, and evaluative measures were taken at pre- and post-intervention. Results indicated that at six-weeks post-workshop teachers reported a significant decrease in the number of problem behaviours exhibited by students with Asperger's syndrome in the mainstream classroom. Teachers also indicated that they, themselves, were both more successful and more confident in their management of such students in this setting, even though they did not feel that the severity of the behaviours had decreased significantly in that time. All participants supported the efficacy of the developed workshop as an educational tool both for themselves, personally, and for all mainstream teachers, generally.
The study has significant implications for the utility and importance of teacher-training in the area of Asperger's syndrome, specifically, and behavioural disorders, generally, for supporting the successful inclusion of students with behavioural disorders in mainstream classroom settings.
There were a number of limitations to the current study, including that teacher-report of the subject students' severity of symptoms was not controlled for, nor was the initial efficacy of teacher management strategies assessed by an independent rater. Implications of the findings are also restricted by the limited sample size and relatively small geographical range of intervention schools.
Future research would benefit from controlling for the limiting factors detailed above and also from screening teachers, via independent observations of classroom management, for pre- and post-intervention teacher efficacy.
It is also suggested that the programme would result in even greater efficacy if future research incorporated the workshop into one limb of a 'tripartite' of programmes, aiming to provide specialised education, support and strategies not only to classroom teachers, but also to students with Asperger's syndrome and their parents. It is suggested that such a programme would facilitate greater understanding between these groups, and lead to a much more 'cohesive' and 'team-oriented' approach to supporting the student with Asperger's syndrome in the inclusive school environment.