The relation between school participation and psychosocial functioning of autistic pupils: exploring the influence of children’s autistic traits, families’ socio-economic status and school fit
Bos, Sophie van den
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Objectives: Participating in social activities and interacting with peers and teachers at school benefit children’s social and emotional development. However, it is unclear whether social participation can be guaranteed for autistic children at school. This study aimed to increase our understanding of the relation between school participation and psychosocial functioning in autistic pupils. In addition, we explored whether this relation could differ depending on children’s autistic traits, their family’s socio-economic status and school fit. Methods: This study is part of the Schoolyard Project, a multidisciplinary research project in collaboration with the Dutch Autism Register (NAR). Parents of two-hundred autistic children (158 boys; mean age = 12.23 years) participated in this study. They filled out multiple questionnaires on NAR, which measured their children’s school participation, psychosocial functioning, level of autistic traits, socio-economic status and school fit. Results: The outcomes showed that more school participation contributed to the prediction of fewer psychosocial problems of autistic pupils. However, no moderating effect of children’s autistic traits, their families’ socio-economic status or school fit was found on the relation between school participation and psychosocial functioning. Conclusions: We confirmed that more school participation was associated with fewer psychosocial problems for autistic children, highlighting the importance of increasing inclusiveness of school environment and promoting school participation. Although no moderating effect was found in this study, higher levels of autistic traits and lower families’ socio-economic status were related to more psychosocial problems in autistic pupils. Furthermore, our finding suggests that school fit is an important factor that should be taken into consideration when examining how to promote school participation and prevent psychosocial problems of autistic pupils. Future research should further explore how individual, family and school factors interact with autistic children’s school participation and psychosocial functioning. Knowledge in this regard can help parents, clinical and educational professionals finding the best way to support autistic children’s development.
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