BioScience Trends. 2024;18(1):73-82. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2023.01319)

Socioeconomic disparities in education placement for children of primary school age with autism spectrum disorder in China

Zhao Y, Zhang R, Zheng X


Relatively little is known about education placements for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in China. While disparities in ASD diagnoses and services for the population broadly are often documented, the presence and determinants of differences in the educational placement of ASD children are less studied and understood. By identifying who is likely to be in segregated settings, we can discern how to best support them and facilitate a possible transition to a less restrictive setting. This study describes four placements (regular schools, special schools, institutions, homes) and their influencing factors retrospectively in a large sample (n = 2,190) of Chinese primary school-aged children (6-12 years old). We divided ASD into severe and mild to moderate categories for analysis. Children with ASD were more likely to study in a regular school (48.60%), while 13.88% were in a special school. Children with severe ASD were placed in less regular settings than children with mild to moderate ASD. However, families with higher socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely to place their children in regular schools than lower SES families if their children experienced mild to moderate symptoms. Children with severe ASD were more likely to be placed in expensive institutions for families with higher SES than those with lower SES. SES disparities in educational placement existed and had two manifestations. It is important to characterize educational placements of students with ASD to determine the extent to which they are placed in general education settings, which are often the preferred placement.

KEYWORDS: autism spectrum disorder (ASD), primary school, inclusive education, socioeconomic disparities, China

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