Effects of interaction on nonhandicapped children's attitudes toward autistic children

S. M. McHale, R. J. Simeonsson

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31 Scopus citations


Second and third graders (N = 28) were interviewed concerning their attitudes and understanding of children exhibiting childhood autism confounded by mental retardation. The interviews took place before and after the children had participated in a week of daily, half-hour play sessions with a class of six autistic children. Comparisons of the children's attitudes at each time indicated that they were overwhelmingly positive on both occasions. Contrary to earlier findings, children did not express more negative attitudes as a results of contact with autistic children; however, they did display an increase in their understanding of autistic children after contact. The children's understanding of autism was positively related to the frequency of their communication with the autistic children on the first day of interaction, and thier positive attitudes and frequency of solitary play were negatively correlated. Implications of the results for the design and implementation of mainstreaming programs were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Mental Deficiency
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1980

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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