Nowicki (2003) aggregated the results of 32 studies. Some of these studies compared the social status of children with ASD to those without disabilities in inclusive classrooms and some compared children with disabilities to students characterized by low, average, and/or high average academic achievement in inclusive settings. When studies had not created different achievement categories for students without learning disabilities, these students were placed in the average- to high-achieving category for the meta-analysis.
Effect sizes indicating the difference between these groups on sociometric status were then computed. Comparing peer ratings of social preference for children with ASD to that of average- to high-achieving students yielded a large effect size, indicating that students without disabilities typically received higher social preference scores. In contrast, the effect size computed for differences in the social preference scores of children with ASD and low-achieving children was medium; there was, however, a range of variability in these studies with respect to social preference scores. This was largely due to two studies by Vaughn and colleagues that resulted in widely differing effect sizes (Nowicki, 2003). In particular, in one study by Vaughn et al. (1992; as cited in Nowicki, 2003), negative, medium effect sizes were reported and indicated that children without disabilities preferred those with disability over low-achieving children in their classroom. In contrast, in another study by Vaughn et al. (1990) children in kindergarten preferred low-achieving classmates over those who had a disability. The medium effect size reported by Nowicki (2003), therefore, tentatively, indicates that low-achieving children have better social status in inclusive classrooms than children with disabilities, but that this difference is not as great as when children with disabilities are compared to average-to high-achieving students.
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