The education system in Saudi Arabia has greatly evolved to allow access to every child, including those with disabilities. This evolution began in 1962 when the Ministry of Education created a special department to improve learning and rehabilitation services of three categories of special children, namely: the blind, deaf and those with mental retardation. Currently, there are more children with disabilities attending public schools, according to Al-Mousa (2010). There are positive educational outcomes, but there is no indication of the success associated with the inclusion of autistic children in mainstream classes. Hence, this study aims at investigating the performance of autistic children to evaluate the success of inclusion. Saudi Arabia boasts of how it supports children with disability as indicated by the incorporation of special learning support services in mainstream schools to reinforce this goal. On the other hand, this support is limited (Alquraini 2011).
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In a country like Jordan, there is no segregation of children with disabilities from those without. This strategy is controversial because according to the literature reviewed by Al-Zyoudi (2006), different teachers in different countries had different attitudes and perceptions about mainstreaming, and this was influenced by teaching experience, nature of the disability, professional training, curriculum adaptations and collaboration with parents. This finding is in alignment with other studies (Al-Khateeb cited in Al-Zyoudi 2006, p. 60). The al-Zyoudi emphasis that teachers’ beliefs and acceptability highly govern the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream classes. Since this study does not have specific findings in relation to the nature of the disability, this study will aim to correlate aspects that govern teachers’ attitudes with the inclusion of autistic children.
A study by Mckeating (2013) highlighted the difficulties experienced by children with disabilities in mainstream classes, with a special focus on autistic children, but the author did not show how these challenges affect their learning. The training system is different; a teacher is either trained in relation to normal children or special ones. This being the case, integration of children with disabilities in a mainstream class becomes a huge challenge for a teacher who does not know how to deal with these special children. Hence, the negative attitudes of the teachers, according to a mixed methods study by Al-Garni (2012).
In a qualitative study by Humphrey & Lewis (2008), autistic children are resistant to change and uncertainty; hence, they may find it difficult to cope in a mainstream setting. The reaction of other students is paramount because there is a tendency of students to want to fit in with peers. When interaction with peers becomes difficult, and instances of bullying are evident, a child with disability undergoes psychological distress, according to a meta-synthesis by Humphrey (2008). Despite the fact that Humphrey & Symes (2010) indicated that social support from classmates has a positive influence on emphasized the need for social support from classmates because it was perceived as a means to reducing bullying. Evident from this paper, there is the need to investigate the attitudes of teachers towards the inclusion of autistic children in mainstream classes, as well as barriers hindering this inclusion. The research questions, therefore, will be:
- What are the teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of children with Autism in Saudi Arabi (Riyadh)?
- What are the aspects that affect the teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of children with Autism in Saudi Arabia (Riyadh)?
- Effect of teachers’ experience?
- Effect of teachers’ training?
- Effect of teachers’ culture?
- What are the teachers’ perspectives on the main barriers of including children with Autism?
- Teachers’ perspective on the lack of social support as a barrier?
- Teachers’ perspective on bullying as a barrier?
- Teachers’ perspective on the availability of resources as a barrier?
- What are the teachers’ perspectives on the best setting in which to teach children with Autism?
- What is the performance of children with autism in mainstream schools within different grades?
Al-Garni, A. 20102, ‘Attitudes of Future Special Education Teachers towards Gifted Students and their Education’, Dissertation, Queensland University of Technology.
Al-Mousa, N 2010, The Experience of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Mainstreaming Students with Special Educational Needs in Public Schools. Riyadh: The Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States, The Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States, Riyadh.
Al-Quraini, T 2011, ‘Special education in Saudi Arabia: challenges, perspectives, future possibilities’, International Journal of Special Education, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 149-159.
Al-Zayoudi, M 2006, ‘ Teachers’ Attitudes towards inclusion education in Jordanian schools’, International Journal of Special Education, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 55-62.
Humphrey, N 2008, ‘Including pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream schools’, Support for Learning, vol. 23, no. 1. pp. 41-47.
Humphrey, N & Lewis, S 2008, ‘‘Make me normal’: the views and experiences of pupils on the autistic spectrum in mainstream secondary schools’, Autism: An International Journal of Research and Practice, vol. 12, pp. 23–46.
Humphrey, N & Symes, W 2010, ‘Perceptions of social support and experience of bullying among pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream secondary schools’, European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 77-91.
McKeating, C 2013, Including Children with ASD in Regular Kindergarten and First Grade Classrooms: Teacher Attitudes, Child Progress and Classroom Quality’, Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh.