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With the increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism in the past decade, the report indicated a high rate of exclusion with social and academic needs often being misunderstood or unsupported.
In a landmark two-year study, commissioned by Autism CRC, 1500 people were surveyed including teachers, school staff members and students on the spectrum, along with their parents and caregivers across the country.
Led by QUT’s Faculty of Education, Dr. Beth Saggers and Professor Suzanne Carrington, the team found teachers are in need of more support to provide inclusive classroom environments.
Professor Carrington said “A one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with autistic children is not effective. Autism is not just one area of diversity and the research demonstrated the need for schools to be flexible and agile to the children’s needs and often other students also benefit.”
Dr. Saggers stated the research also highlighted issues and obstacles children deal with during their school years, but also emphasized the hardships teachers experienced in trying to successfully meet their needs.
She further stated, “Autistic children vary in their intellectual abilities and may find it difficult to plan and organize their time, cope with change, manage the social context of the school environment and at times stay calm and regulate their emotions. By promoting social competence and social emotional wellbeing, providing positive behavior support, assisting with planning and organizing, using technology, the individual needs of a child with autism can be addressed."
She also said, “This helps to positively influence their participation and engagement within the classroom environment.”
The Autism CRC Education Research Program is a national effort incorporating all school systems in order to provide autism-specific strategies to help children on the spectrum to access the curriculum and school environments.
The Australian study involved all states, and included the viewpoints of educators, specialists, parents and students with autism spectrum disorder.
There were 934 parents and relatives, 234 educators with 15.5 years of average experience, 172 specialists (including speech language therapists, occupational therapists and psychologists) and 107 students between the ages of 11-18 years old with ASD, participating in the study.
Approximately 70 percent of children on the autism spectrum are educated in mainstream schools. While in mainstream schools 90 percent of ASD children experienced restrictions and 6 percent were not able to attend school due to the severity of their disability.
For these numbers to change, it’s important for educators to work with autism specialists to make sure these children are included in school activities and to have their emotional needs met and maintained.
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