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Autism Spectrum Disorder in Relation to Education Essay

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Updated: May 24th, 2019

Introduction

Autism spectrum disorders refer to the disabilities that are of neurodevelopment nature. In most cases, the disorders last for the entire lifetime of an individual. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is notable within the first thirty-six months after birth of a person.

Some of the most common characteristics associated with ASD include difficulty in communication, social interactions and the individual displays a stereotyped attitude and activities that one undertakes.

Medical research studies report that Autism Spectrum Disorders are because of an impaired brain development process and the overall functionality of the brain, which usually occurs during the initial 3 years of a person’s life (Kavale 2002). This paper attempts to examine the relationship that exists between Autism Spectrum Disorders and education.

The paper will first outline Wendy Lawson statement of 2001 about ASD in relation to education, after which the relationship between ASD and education is established.

The paper will also outline the challenges associated with the implementation of inclusive programs for students with ASD, various ways used to tackle the associated challenges and a conclusion based on the personal position concerning inclusion approach to education.

Overview of Wendy Lawson statement on the relationship between the ASD and education

Lawson claims that the school environment sometimes can be harsh to both parents and the children; this is because the education system cannot address all the needs of every individual. The application of concepts such as exclusion and separation is an effective approach towards the solution of problem of variability in the education system.

There are categories of individuals in the education system that requires full time attention in order to foster effective learning. This means that the education system must have strategies that incorporate the concepts of adaptability and should be able to consider the needs of the different individuals in the education system.

It is worth noting that special schools need to put more emphasis on neurodevelopment of autistic individuals. Many individuals are not aware that they have Autistic Spectrum Disorders. In addition, they are not prepared to handle the cases of ASD.

Challenges encountered when implementing inclusive programs for students with ASD

Inclusive programs can be either full inclusion or regular inclusion. The choice of the mode of inclusive programs depends on the levels of severability of ASD in students (Bowe 2005). Inclusive programs use the concepts of integration, meaning that students with ASD can attend classes with other normal students for all day or at least more than half of the lessons duration.

The inclusive program considers students having ASD at the same levels as other members of the class. In case a student requires special attention, the provisions of such services are available outside the classroom setting, especially if they will cause interruption to the rest of the classroom (Jorgensen et al 2005). An example of such special service is speech therapy.

In such cases, the autistic student is taken to a resource room, where there are more thorough instructions compared to the regular classroom. For the case of full inclusion, there is integration of students having ASD on a fulltime basis with the regular students (Loxley 2007).

In this case, there is no segregation depending on the severability of the ASD in students. A significant number of educators argue that is the most effective approach to administering learning to students with ASD. In this context, there are no specialized and segregated educational supports to autistic students.

An inclusive program for students having ASD is not easy to implement. In order for autistic children to learn effectively in the normal classroom set up, there is need to have enough funding in order to employ the necessary support specialists and acquire learning resources for the students and teachers (Jorgensen et al 2005).

In addition, there is need to have assistive technologies, which can be used to enhance the accessibility of the classroom for students whose body movements have been significantly impaired. The following outlines the various challenges associated with the implementation of inclusive programs for students with ASD (Kavale 2002).

The first significant barrier to the implementation of inclusive programs for autistic students is adequate funding. Attending to students having ASD in the regular classrooms requires specialized teachers and supplementary staff in order to aid in the realization of the needs of the students having ASD.

An inclusive program for autistic students requires intense funding which aims at the provision of services to meet the individual needs for autistic children (Marston 2004). The current state of the economy cannot support the provision of such services. The implementation of inclusion programs without adequate funding will hinder the provision of specialized professional services to the autistic students.

For autistic children to learn effectively in a regular classroom environment, one student requires at least one specialized teacher, this translates to immense resources in order to implement inclusion programs for students having ASD effectively (Loxley 2007). Immense resources are also required in order to adjust the curriculum for autistic students to match that of regular students.

This means that the curriculum adjustment is at the expense of regular students, since focusing on the administration of learning for students with ASD will hinder learning for regular students in the same classroom and vice versa (Bowe 2005).

Immense funding is also required in order to facilitate the setting up of a resource room that provides special services, for instance speech and language psychotherapy, physical psychoanalysis and additional social work.

In general, the implementation of inclusive programs in mainstream educational institutions is an expensive venture that requires both human and material resources that are not readily available in regular schools. This is a significant barrier towards the implementation of inclusion programs for students having ASD (Loxley 2007).

The second significant constraint associated with the implementation of inclusion programs for students having ASD is negative attitudes. An educational institution is similar to societal setting; this implies that autistic students are subject to negative attitudes from other regular students and teachers (Loxley 2007). In some cases, general education facilitators can fail to understand the nature of students having ASD.

This plays a significant role in inhibiting effective learning by autistic children. Attitudinal barriers can be either intentional or unintentional.

Intentional barriers that are likely to be evident during implementation of inclusion programs for students having ASD include cases of isolation, instances of physical bullying and emotional bullying. Isolation usually makes it difficult for autistic students to fit in the normal classrooms set up because of factors such as difficulty in making of friends (Loxley 2007).

Emotional bullying involves the perception that students having ASD are always stupid. Unintentional barriers are due to lack of understanding of the state of the autistic children by the staff and other students of the education system. Research studies have reported that the most rampant case of unintentional attitudinal barrier is lack of understanding on the side of support staff and regular teachers.

Regular teachers assigned to fend for children having ASD always view this task as being inappropriate, therefore resulting to ineffectiveness in the delivery of education services to autistic students (Bowe 2005).

The third significant barrier associated with the implementation of inclusive programs for students having ASD is that there is lack of curriculum structures designed foundation of universal design (Bowe 2005). Most of educational curriculum presently used focuses on a particular grade and subject.

In most cases, the structure of the curriculum puts into consideration the needs of regular students; as a result, they overlook the learning needs of students having ASD. The structure of the most educational programs leaves students with exceptionalities, especially autistic children outside the curriculum structure (Marston 2004).

This is due to the perception that most educators feel that students with special needs should be excluded from the regular educational system and their needs be attended to in a special environment. In order for inclusive programs to be effective, they must deploy multi-level instructions to foster universal design in the education system.

The strategies deployed in teaching and learning should ensure that autistic students have the capability to learn on their own. This is achievable through incorporating the concept of universal design in the structure of educational curriculum.

This is not the case in the present educational curriculum that does not put into consideration the fact that students having ASD require more attention and support compared to regular students (Bowe 2005). Lack of universal design in educational curriculum implies that there is no guarantee for meeting the learning needs for autistic students.

Inclusion means that the autistic children use the normal class routine and structure, as a result, the learning approach is the same as for normal students (Bowe 2005). Inclusive programs overlook the provision of individual needs because the learning procedures applied focuses on regular students’ methodology. In such a scenario, students with ASD who require specialized services such as speech therapy are disadvantaged largely.

Another significant barrier to the implementation of inclusive programs for students having ASD is that the current state of classroom set up does not embrace the concept of diversity in the population of the students (Kavale 2002).

An important aspect of inclusive program is that it should facilitate the establishment of heterogeneous learning environments, which addresses the needs of students with different learning abilities effectively without affecting the learning process of other students. It is usually difficult to implement inclusive educational programs in homogeneous learning environment.

Therefore, such an approach to student grouping results to the segregation and differentiation of students having ASD, thereby hindering the implementation of inclusion programs for such students. This streaming practice segregates autistic students since they have different learning abilities compared to regular students.

In such a scenario, mutual learning is significantly impaired. Segregation in the delivery of educational services hinders developmental learning among students having ASD (Marston 2004).

Systemic barriers are not easily addressed, especially the lack of heterogeneous classrooms in terms of classroom size and support services. Even in cases where there are heterogeneous learning environments, lack of resources for administering teaching can still hinder effective implementation of inclusion programs for students having ASD (Susan 2005).

Another significant barrier that inhibits the implementation of inclusive education for students having ASD is that there is lack of necessary expertise and knowledge that are required to implement inclusive practices to education.

This is an inevitable barrier towards the realization of effective inclusion programs for autistic students because regular educators usually feel that they do not have the required knowledge and skills to attend to autistic students in an effective manner. Teaching students in an inclusive classroom requires adequate skills that are essential handling students with different learning abilities (Susan 2005).

This means that educational institutions have the challenge of outsourcing of the professional teaching and support staff. This in turn puts pressure on regular educational institutions to concentrate on looking for viable alternatives outside the normal classroom setting (Susan 2005).

Lack of knowledge is a systemic barrier to implementation of inclusive programs for students with ASD; this is due to factors such as inadequate pre-service training, in-service training, and lack of accountability by the available regular teachers towards teaching students with ASD.

In addition, regular schools are not ready to invest in the acquisition of necessary expertise towards the provision of education to students with ASD in regular classrooms. Available regular teachers always lack the confidence and required special skills in order handle students having ASD.

There are other systemic barriers to implementation of effective inclusion strategies to students with ASD such as lack of accountability mechanisms, required professionals to attend to students with ASD, obscurity in the adoption of diversity and the inclusion approach to education (Bowe 2005).

How the above challenges can be addressed using evidence-based practice

There are diverse ways of tackling the above challenges in order to foster effective implementation of inclusive programs for students having ASD in regular institutions (Bowe 2005).

The approach towards eliminating such barriers should aim at the establishment of plans of approach that emphasizes on the identification of specific barriers, and then deployment of strategic actions that aims at elimination of the challenges associated with the implementation of inclusive programs for students having ASD (Loxley 2007).

The first method towards approaching such challenges is the adoption an educational system that is universal in its design, in the sense that it can accommodate and address all the categories of students in the education system without bias. The realization of this is through designing an educational curriculum that does not segregate students according to their learning abilities (Kavale 2002).

An effective learning environment is that which can facilitate mutual learning amongst students irrespective of differences in their learning abilities. Educational institutions should aim at integrating all students without dividing students basing on developmental abilities, as the case of students having ASD.

Educational systems must prioritize understanding the educational practices associated with inclusive programs for students having ASD. It is imperative that the educational plans and policies in regular learning institutions put into consideration the learning requirements of students with problems in neurodevelopment, especially ASD (Bowe 2005).

The second effective strategy for addressing the challenges related to the implementation of inclusive programs for students with ASD is the establishment of good collaboration and effective preparation strategies. Collaboration is one of the most significant aspects of inclusive programs.

This means for inclusive programs to be effective, they must provide an avenue through which educationally facilitators can meet and discuss the recent educational practices in handling students who have ASD.

The use of collaboration in the deployment of inclusive programs makes the regular teachers and the supporting staff to feel that they have the support that they need in order to attend to students with ASD in a regular classroom setting (Susan 2005).

It is also important that inclusive programs for students having ASD should provide an opportunity for the various educators to develop lesson plans, which can address the needs of exceptional students. Failure to develop lesson strategies to accommodate the needs of students with ASD is the most rampant source f frustration for teachers when they attend to special students (Kavale 2002).

Therefore, administrators of educational institutions need to recognize the significance of implementation of inclusive programs for students having ASD. The realization of this is through proving sufficient time for the educators to plan and consult with one another. Collaborative effort is also required between the educators and paraprofessionals.

It is the responsibility of the education system to identify opportunities, which promote collaboration and specific preparation efforts. It is also important to put into consideration students who have issues with neurodevelopment.

In order to address this challenge effectively, educational institutions will need to add more resources that aim fostering educational models that flexible and appropriate in the context of students having ASD (Bowe 2005).

The third significant strategy that aims at tackling the challenges associated with the implementation of inclusive programs for students with ASD is the development of knowledge competencies of the specialized professional in handling exceptional students. It is imperative that inclusive programs should distinguish the roles of professional regular teachers and specialized teachers.

Paraprofessionals should not undertake the duty of normal professional teachers when they are attending to students with ASD. As a general rule of thumb, paraprofessionals should provide support to teachers while dealing with autistic children, in the context of inclusion programs.

Just like other educators, paraprofessionals must be facilitators of inclusive programs for it to be successful. A significant skill requirement for paraprofessionals is the ability to foster independence and interdependence learning approaches (Marston 2004).

Another important way of addressing the challenges related to implementation of inclusive programs for students with ASD is to ensure that parents and families provide the required support and be partners during the implementation of inclusive programs.

Parents and families form an essential aspect of the educational system. In order to implement inclusive plans effectively, parents and families need to be involved actively in the process of planning for inclusive education. It is also important that the educational planning process put into consideration the views and perceptions of the parents and families that have autistic children.

Lack of their involvement is a challenge that should not be underestimated (Susan 2005). This implies that the inclusive programs need to devise methods of fostering ways through which families and parents should be in partnership with the educational institutions.

The inclusion program should also aim at providing awareness to parents, through informing them of the roles of the various paraprofessionals. This fosters direct contact and aims at monitoring the development process of a student with ASD.

Other strategies than can address the challenges during the implementation of inclusion programs include offering training to teacher assistants, implementation of peer support methods and ensuring that inclusive program practices are consistent with the standards (Bowe 2005).

Personal position regarding an inclusive approach to education

Inclusive approach to education is not an effective methodology to foster equality in then education system. The only significant challenge is that inclusion ignores the fact students with disabilities require special attention in learning environments that intensely monitored and controlled.

A student having neurodevelopment problems is less likely to maintain concentration in a classroom environment full of student with similar characteristics. Inclusive approach to education is only effective when school administrators deploy staff preparation strategies to enhance their skills in handling students with neurodevelopment problems.

The effectiveness of inclusion approach to education significantly depends on how aware and prepared learning institutions are towards the methodology. It is arguably evident that a significant number of learning institutions do not use the standard inclusion practices when administering learning to students with ASD and other neurodevelopment problems (Kavale 2002).

Alternatives to inclusion such as special education have proved more effective in considering the needs of students with neurodevelopment problems. Special education provides learning methodologies that are customized and attempts to address the learning needs of students in an individual basis (Bowe 2005).

Despite effecting how the students will interact with other individuals in the social world, studies have depicted that isolation of students with neurodevelopment problems is more effective than inclusion.

References

Bowe, F., 2005, Making Inclusion Work, New York: Merrill Education/Prentice Hall.

Jorgensen, C., Schuh, M., & Nisbet, J., 2005, The inclusion facilitator’s guide. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Kavale, K., 2002, Mainstreaming to full inclusion: From orthogenesis to pathogenesis of an idea. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education ,Vol. 12 no. 6, pp. 56-89.

Loxley, A., 2007, Deconstructing Special Education and Constructing Inclusoin, Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Marston, D., 2004, Journal of special education ,Vol. 20 , no. 2 pp. 89-102.

Susan, D., 2005, Understanding and Workong With the Spectrum Of Autism, Sydney: Elsevier Australia.

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