Despite the growing number of autistic children educated in mainstream classrooms, many students are not familiar with autism. A University of Georgia study (Campbell & Barger, 2010) found that only 46% of middle school students surveyed had heard of autism. Despite some recognition of the disability, they had little knowledge of its characteristics, such as communication and social skill challenges. If students are uninformed about a disability, they often attribute undesirable social behaviors to individual choice. For example, a classmate may interpret avoidance of eye contact as rude instead of as a behavioral characteristic of autism.
Negative behaviors stem from this lack of understanding. A 2012 study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that 63% of autistic children surveyed had been bullied, compared to only 12% of these same children’s typically-developing siblings. The combination of more autism diagnoses, more autistic children accessing general education, and an explosion of bullying is creating a perfect storm in America’s classrooms. OAR’s Kit for Kids helps address these problems; educating children about autism will foster a greater understanding of the disability and its characteristics, as expressed in school settings. This improved knowledge will lead to a more compassionate and inclusive classroom environment.