The purpose of this study was to identify characteristics pertaining to emotional intelligence (EI) that parents and Foundation Phase teachers may use when supporting learners with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in an inclusive classroom setting. Teachers are facing various degrees of challenges due to the demands of a range of diverse needs attributable to the influx of learners with disabilities in the school system. Given the increase in the number of children diagnosed with ASD, research indicates that it is likely that teachers will encounter learners with ASD in their classes. Teachers are generally not trained to identify and cope with such a disability, as many requirements of these learners are beyond the services of a general school system. A multiple case study was conducted where the perspectives of a teacher and two parents were gained, in order to understand experiences with children with ASD from the participants' point of view. The primary aim of this study was therefore to provide both parents and teachers with listed characteristics of EI that they could utilise while supporting learners with ASD in households or the educational sphere.
Findings illuminated the collective characteristics of learners with ASD, which include intense obsessions with a narrow range of subjects, repetitive routines, central coherence difficulties and problems with social-emotional functioning, communication and executive functioning. These indicators require specific responses from parents and teachers to effectively provide support to these learners. Qualities identified that relate to EI are patience, empathy, problem solving skills, working collaboratively with parents and being proactive. The main recommendation relates to specific training in EI skills, to prepare student teachers in supporting the growing number of learners with ASD in their classes.