Understanding the child in relation to practice and rethinking inclusion: a study of children with autism spectrum disorder in mainstream preschools

Fatema Taj Johora, Marilyn Fleer, Marie Hammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Despite the growing acceptance of inclusive education policy, effective inclusion of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in mainstream settings has not been ensured. Moreover, the research-to-practice gap in the field of autism spectrum disorder (Bölte, 2019) is a wake-up call for researchers to rethink inclusion. Grounded in cultural-historical theory, this paper examines the inclusive practices of one child with ASD from the child's perspective. Toby (pseudonym) aged 3 years 5 months was observed in the naturalistic setting of a preschool over 8 weeks. A total of 8 h of digital video data were recorded to understand the practices that support or mitigate the process of both primary and secondary development of a child with ASD in a play-based setting. The dynamic relationship between the child's motive and the institutional demands of preschool (Hedegaard, 2019) were analysed in relation to the inclusive practices for Toby's development. The findings show how the child's persistent negotiations, the educators' understanding of the child's motive, and the practice setting created conditions that supported Toby's development and pushed against reported ‘secondary disability’ (Vygotsky, 1993). The findings suggest a different approach to children with ASD which has potential possibilities to support their inclusion in play-based settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100469
Number of pages12
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Autism
  • Cultural-historical theory
  • Demands
  • Inclusion
  • Motives
  • Secondary disability

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