CE41 - Inégalités, discriminations, migrations

Impact of a school-based autism anti-stigma intervention: the IDEAL program – IDEAL

IDEAL Project: School inclusion of children with autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social communication and the presence of restricted interests and stereotyped behaviors, with a current prevalence estimated at around 1 in 100 children. Today, more and more children with ASD have access to schooling (National Disability Conference, 2016). However, the challenge of inclusive schooling is still far from being met.

Main issues raised & general objectives

In particular, several recent studies highlight the existence of negative attitudes from other children towards children with ASD within the school (e.g. Humphrey & Hebron, 2015). Teachers and parents of pupils may also have many reservations about the inclusion of these children in school, sometimes linked to a lack of training for professionals, but frequently also due to deeper beliefs guided by a fear of difference. These fears feed prejudice and exclusionary behavior (not always intentional) from a very early stage, first within the school and then throughout life in other sectors (Corrigan, Markowitz, & Watson, 2004). One way to address these behaviors early on is to develop empathy in young children for their peers with ASD by encouraging contact, experimentation, and change in perspective (Schachter et al., 2008). At present, there are very few studies on the subject (only one to our knowledge in France; Godeau et al., 2010) and they do not take into account recent knowledge from work in the psychology of prejudice to guide the content and format of their interventions. The IDEAL project takes this limitation into account by, on the one hand, combining the skills of researchers specialized in the fields of ASD, education, and discriminatory behavior, and on the other hand, the expertise of field actors (parents' associations). The main objective is to evaluate the effectiveness and validity of a pro-diversity intervention in schools (in the short and medium-term) on the attitudes of children and teachers towards pupils with ASD. In order to achieve this objective, we first had to develop reliable tools to ensure the quality of the measures.

The main study (2021-2022) is aimed at pupils from 2nd to 4th grade and their teachers. To meet the main objective, we plan to include 21 classes (7 classes per grade) in the intervention group and 21 classes in the control group. Our measurements will be made over one school year at T0 (before the intervention) and T1 (after the intervention at the end of the school year). Explicit attitudes and prosocial behaviors towards children with ASD will be assessed among the students. Measures of teacher acceptability of the intervention will also be implemented.

Preliminary studies (2019-2021) allowed us to develop and validate a questionnaire measuring explicit attitudes towards ASD in a population of 204 primary school children (CATAQ; Derguy et al ., 2021). In addition, we have shown the relevance of a short computerized game to evaluate more spontaneous reactions (implicit attitudes) of children towards autism (VAAST; Aubé et al., 2019).

The IDEAL project combines an innovative intervention based on theoretical concepts and a rigorous scientific methodology (i.e., control group, pre/post-intervention measurement, cognitive and behavioral measures). In the longer term, the aim is to be able to disseminate this intervention on a larger scale, beyond the schools involved in the project. In addition to contributing to the development of a supportive school environment for ASD children, this project is also contributing to the education of children about tolerance of difference.


Derguy, C., Aubé, B., Rohmer, O., Marotta, F., & Loyal, D. (2021). Another step to school inclusion: Development and Validation of the Children’s Attitudes Towards Autism Questionnaire (CATAQ). Autism.
Aubé, B., Follenfant, A., Goudeau, S., & Derguy, C. (2020). Explicit and Implicit Attitudes of Children towards their Peers with ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder.
Derguy, C., Aubé, B., & Belmer, L. (2019). Les déterminants de la stigmatisation internalisée chez les parents d’enfant ayant un TSA: analyse systématique de la littérature. In C. Derguy & E. Cappe, Familles et Trouble du Spectre de l’Autisme (Univers Psy, p. 53-73). Malakoff: Dunod.
Aubé, B. & Derguy, C. (à paraitre). Regards croisés sur la mesure des attitudes chez l’enfant vis-à-vis de l’autisme?: Questions soulevées et défis à venir. In Rohmer, O., Jury, M., & Popa-Roch, L’inclusion scolaire : Perspective psychosociale. Psychologie et Société. Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.

Communications (selection)

Aubé, B. (2019, octobre). Mesure des attitudes face à l’inclusion des élèves autistes : nouvelles méthodologies de recherche. Séminaire invité au Laboratoire de Psychologie des Cognition (LPC), Strasbourg, France.
Aubé, B., Rohmer, O., & Derguy, C. (2020, novembre 4). Les préjugés explicites et implicites envers les enfants en situation de handicap. Séminaire invité de l’équipe Epopée, INSERM, Paris, France.
Derguy, C., Aubé, B., Belmer, L. (2020, Juillet). Stigmatisation internalisée chez les parents d’enfants ayant un Trouble du Spectre de l’Autisme. 11ème congrès de l'Association Francophone de Psychologie de la Santé, Paris, France
Derguy, C., Aubé, B., Rohmer, O. (2021, 28 Juin). Le projet IDEAL (Inclusion Des Enfants avec Autisme à L’école) : Changer le regard sur le handicap dès l’école primaire. Journée SHS organisée par le GIS Autisme et TDN

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by alterations in social communication and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). ASD affecting a growing number of children: the actual prevalence is about 1 in every 150 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). According to the European charter of fundamental rights, the French law (2005) protects the rights of children with a disability to be included in schools and to have the same chances as children without disability. As a result more and more children with ASD have access to schooling (“National Disability Conference [Conférence nationale du handicap],” 2016). However, negative beliefs and attitudes of students toward their peers suggest that the challenge of inclusive school is still far from being achieved (e.g. Humphrey & Hebron, 2015). Fear of difference fuels very early prejudice and exclusion behaviors (not always consciously), within the school and then throughout life (Corrigan, Markowitz, & Watson, 2004). To our knowledge, only one study in France has tested a school intervention to improve attitudes toward children with disabilities but results did not showed any difference on attitudes compared to the control group (Godeau et al., 2010). However, the intervention did not take into account the prejudice-reduction literature that is a field in its own. Indeed, exclusionary behaviors can be reduced through the development of empathy among young children toward their peers with ASD by promoting contact, experience and perspective change (Schachter et al., 2008). The IDEAL project considers this limitation by associating, on the one hand, the skills of researchers with different expertise (in ASD, educational interventions, and prejudice and discrimination) behaviors and, on the other hand, association with ground expertise (association of parents).

The main objective of the project is to evaluate (at short and midterm) the effectiveness of a school-based anti-stigma intervention aimed at improving children and teachers’ attitudes toward students with ASD. A second objective is to evaluate the social validity of the intervention.

Participants will be students from 1st grade to 5th grade and their teaching staff. The planned sample is 20 classes (4 classes per grade level) in the intervention group and 20 classes in the control group. Our measurements will be carried out during one school year at three different times: T0 (before the intervention), T1 (after the intervention) and T2 (4 months after the end of the intervention). Children and teachers’ attitudes toward children with ASD will be assessed with explicit measures but also with implicit measures to circumvent a social desirability bias rarely considered in research on prejudice-reduction interventions toward disabled. Moreover, implicit measures predict more subtle and passive discriminatory behaviors which are closer to reality. For that purpose, the first year of the project will be dedicated to the elaboration and to the pre-testing of explicit and implicit measures as those currently available in the literature (particularly implicit measures) are not fully suitable for children.

By considering the critical absence of program aimed at reducing prejudice against students with ASD, the IDEAL project combines an innovative intervention based on the theoretical contributions of research in psychology of prejudice and discrimination, as well as a rigorous scientific method (e.g., control group, pre/post intervention measures, explicit and implicit measures) to evaluate the short- and mid-term effects of our intervention. In longer-term context, we plan to disseminate our intervention at national or international level. Finally, the IDEAL program not only aims at establishing an 'autism-friendly climate' in schools, but also will contribute to the education of children on tolerance toward differences.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 166,212 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: May 2019 - 36 Months

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