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In this assessment I shall describe an Annotated Bibliography on Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The important factors of inclusion in educational settings will be discussed and how parents as partners can help children’s development.
Autism is a condition which affects children’s development their whole life. Autism is a brain disorder that is diagnosed normally in early childhood and autistic children can show bad behaviour and can become fairly aggressive and temperamental. Many education settings have provided additional support to young children alongside other children, however this is to include an inclusive practice.
Children with autism have many difficulties in three main areas:
1) Social Awareness – Find making friends and interacting with others very difficult, and do not always make eye contact when someone is talking to them.
2) Language Communication – Find it hard to explain how their feeling and what their thinking and they also communicate in high pitch tones and have severe delay in speech.
3) Imagination – Do not always understand that others have thoughts and feelings and have limited imagination.
Reid (2005, p.29) quotes “There may also be evidence of obsessive and inappropriate behaviours. Some students within this spectrum may also have limited imaginative thought”.
In society before, children with autism were misunderstood and their negative behaviour was labelled and because of their negative behaviour children were punished frequently. During that time there was no guidance and support available for children with autism from the government and local authorities. There was none specialised equipment/resources for children to learn and develop further, which would help with this particular disability.
There are many barriers for children with autism in mainstream schools like adapting activities, schools may not have enough space and specialised equipment for making the activity adaptable. Children may have certain needs to be tended to so staff need to be trained to deal with children with autism, so some staff would need further training. However, another barrier could be that the parents do not admit that their child has autism, so parents do not attend meetings with staff and acquire the right guidance and support. Some parents may feel that their child is not normal, as the community they come from might have an ideal image of a family, for instance referring to a child who has perfect physical appearance. The medical model sees society or a practice to cure a disability to fit into society, and the social model sees that the child is not the problem, but the attitudes towards disability is the problem.
Adults need to provide children with a safe and enabling environment for them to learn and develop in, so children with autism should be treated equally and fairly, like all children and must feel included in their environment. Meanwhile, when providing activities for children with autism adults must give children time for themselves and let them explore, so they can learn at their own pace. Reid (2005, p. 29) states that “It is important to allow for opportunities that will enable the student some time on his/her own”. However the adult should also involve other children when doing a specific activity for the child with autism, so the child does not feel alone, even though children with autism prefer to play alone.
The adult should support and encourage the child and help them complete the activity, by helping the child using hand in hand contact for example the adult holding the child’s hand etc. The adult’s role is to talk to the children slowly and calmly, and use simple words so they understand and an effort should be made towards them so they feel the sense of security. Vygotsky was a theorist and his theory was on the Zone of Potential Development (ZPD), his theory stresses the importance of when a more knowledgeable adult/child helps a less knowledgeable child, so by helping him/her complete the task he/she could not done alone, he called this ZPD.
Vygotsky saw that adults need to be involved with children strongly. Lindon (1998, p.66) clearly states “He saw early language as an important social tool for children which brought them deliberately into contact with others”. Adults should provide children with activities where they can use all their senses like touch, smell, taste, sound and sight, so providing them toys with flashing lights, soft toys and puppets which will show affection etc. Vygotskys theory is seen as a scaffolding process where the child imitates the practitioner’s actions, and is a one to one process centring the child individual needs first.
Involving parents in these situations can be very difficult, so it is very important to build a relationship with trust and respect, this will help the parent to feel comfortable. Cheminais (2006, p. 101) quotes that “Clear communication and mutual respect help to promote positive productive working relationships between the two partners”. In my nursery we have a folder for a child with autism and in that folder we have IEP sheets where we constantly observe and monitor the child. We also give some IEP sheets to the parent as well so they also monitor the child at home, this helps us to see how the child is doing at home and at nursery. We then have meetings with the parents, where we can discuss the child’s progress, this helps us to see the stage of development. Furthermore these sheets help us to plan and provide for the child further. Communication books can also help as the parent can read them, as this will have the child’s daily routine written in, so parents will feel reassured that their child is safe. (Johnston and William, 2009, p.399-402)
Schools and settings can support children with autism by having SENCO’s (Special educational needs co-ordinator), so children who need extra support can have one to one attention from one main person. Meanwhile they can provide specialised resources like sensory based toys like flashing light toys. Also having family workers can help children, as they can support and guide parents, by having regular sessions where they can discuss where the child needs help and if necessary involve outside agencies.
An inclusive environment for children with autism is essential for children to reach their full potential, as this will build their self esteem and confidence. The environment must be warm and friendly for children and parents, however having posters of children with SEN will help children’s parents see there are many types of SEN children. The room must be facilitated to meet children’s needs for example tables and chairs must be at the child’s level and layout of the room must be spacious for wheelchair users, so ramps and stair lifts must be provided. Activities must be adaptable for children with, so they can participate and learn from different experiences, just like all children. Children with autism must be given a range of resources/specialist equipment, therefore this will meet their needs so they are equally included.
Resources like flash cards, textured materials, soft toys, flashing lights, also natural resources aswel like plants, must be provided as children with autism respond to sensing materials. In my nursery where I work, there is a child with autism, he likes to line objects horizontally and vertically and when playing he constantly repeats the same pattern. The child repeats the same pattern again and again, he shows some independence and confidence in this situation, and repeats his schema. Piaget was a theorist and his idea of schema was, Lindon (1998, p. 72) says “Patterns of behaviour that are linked through a theme and from which a child generalises and explores in different situations”.
There are many legal requirements that support the actions which need to be taken when a child may have special needs. The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) supports the actions which need to be taken, with children with SEN; this Act says that it would be illegal for settings not to make reasonable adjustments for people who have a disability. A perfect example of effective practice is Terry, J (2009, p.30) says “Autism is recognised as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 (DCSF, 2009), and some children and young people will have associated or additional complex developmental difficulties that require the high level of co-ordinated support delivered by Early Support”.
The Special Education Needs Disability Act (2001) also supports children with SEN. This Act is separated in two sections, part one develops the framework of SEN, to reinforce the rights of parents and their children to enter mainstream education and part two develops the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) to expand the rights of SEN children in schools. The main key points of these Acts are that children with disabilities are treated well, and that they are entitled to study the National Curriculum.
In conclusion it is very important for schools and settings to provide a learning and friendly environment for children with autism. Therefore they must provide useful and quality resources and specialised equipment to meet children’s individual needs, so children can reach their utmost best, build their self esteem and confidence and also enjoy themselves. Schools and settings can also work with outside agencies and help to meet parents and children’s needs. As a result parents can get advice and support from other professionals and other agencies, on the other hand children’s certain needs can be tend to and learning experiences maximised.
All staff must be trained to deal with children with autism so they can observe, plan and provide for children with certain needs which need to be met. So then children can develop their next stage of development, Furthermore parents working with teachers can help children’s development enormously as their needs are most likely to be met. As parents are their primary carers, so they know their child/children’s likes, dislikes and interests. Staff can then plan and provide children with challenging activities which children will enjoy and develop further.