«Addressing the Needs of Students with Autism in General Schools» - Free Essay Paper

Addressing the Needs of Students with Autism in General Schools

Introduction

Annually, a continuously growing number of US children are diagnosed with autism. The corresponding statistics indicate that starting with 1990 the amount of autism diagnoses has increased by 5 times (Zhang & Griffin 2007). Simultaneously, the percentage of autism among students has grown by three times (Zhang & Griffin 2007). Such a situation evokes issues that are being addressed at scientific, governmental, and social levels. In particular, an important concern is that educational personnel lack the proper skills due to considerable enhancement of the ratio of children with cognitive impairments. This social change was not predicted by educational establishments. As a result, teachers experience the lack of self-confidence and realize limited knowledge in educating students with special needs (Zhang & Griffin, 2007). Another significant concern is the approach towards inclusive education, which triggers dubious reactions of publicity. Whereas, it is considered to be relevant to involve children with autism in common social interaction, including studying, the above-revealed lack of skilled teachers and appropriate methods, equipments, and techniques are hardly in compliance with this goal. Moreover, it is known that children with autism significantly differ from their peers. One of the most important differences impeding successful socialization is the lack of communicative skills that are vital for the process of studying (Harris, 2012). Given the growing necessity for ensuring professional background for inclusive education, it is important to detect problems autists typically face in general classrooms and provide effective ways towards anticipating and/or resolving those challenges.

Purpose of the Study

This research paper is aimed at analyzing academic resources that address the topic of inclusive education for children with autism. Specifically, this study will discuss the peculiarities of autists’ behaviors, perception, and communication. Moreover, it is appropriate to identify the steps (strategies, techniques) towards effective inclusion of such students into regular classroom and extracurricular activities. The general goal of this project is to help teachers enhance academic activity of the disabled children, in particular, those who are diagnosed with autism.

Analysis and Discussion

Impaired Academic Performance of Children with Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects “a person’s ability to communicate and relate to others” (Harris, 2012). Autists have a range of cognitive alterations that are stipulated by the change in work of neurons and externally manifested through a number of signs that are considered to be typical for this disorder. In particular, “children with autism may also engage in repetitive behaviors” (Harris, 2012). Therefore, they are often change-averse. The reluctance of change is manifested in “following only very specific routines” (Harris, 2012). Apart from own repetitive behaviors, autists treat with alarmed behaviors and reject interior and exterior changes. In other words, they need special routine in every field of their daily performances. This routine is individual and unique for every student, which means that in order to predict and consider a child’s needs, parents and teachers should thoroughly learn their tastes and behaviors (Zhang & Griffin 2007). Besides, a lack of communicative skills predefines that these pupils need more detailed and explicit instructions (Harris, 2012). In addition, striving to educate autists, adults should take into account that this mental disorder presumes poorly or undeveloped non-verbal means and techniques of communication. The range of inappropriat communicative reactions may vary “from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). What is more, teachers must remember that children diagnosed with ASD may have inadequate reactions towards external stimuli. For instance, they may communicate their needs or attitude towards some situations/changes in aggressive ways, such as biting, screaming, beating themselves or other individuals (Zhang & Griffin 2007). Furthermore, whereas it can be difficult to attract their attention without trigging adverse reactions, these students are capable of directing an excessive interest towards narrow topics/matters/sounds. Considering the above-mentioned behavioral patterns of autists, it is important to identify specific strategies that can help mitigate the negative manifestations of this disease, which simultaneously means increasing the productivity of inclusive education.

The Ways to Enhance the Effectiveness of Inclusive Education for Children with ASD

To begin with, it is necessary to accentuate that the above-described conditions that are believed to be typical for ASD cannot be completely changed/stopped/cured/suppressed. This is the rule of thumb that teachers must remember. Nevertheless, scholars suggest that it is possible to use repetitive behavior, adherence towards routine, and narrow interest of autists in educational purposes (Zhang & Griffin 2007). For instance, if a pupil with autism is interested in black holes, his/her interest can be directed towards other matters by providing the visuals with characteristics similar to black holes. In this way, a child can be involved in general educational process.

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Besides, given the fact that various objects may distract a child with autism and trigger certain alarmed reaction, teachers are recommended to shield such students from any possible distractions, as much as the situation allows to (Zhang & Griffin 2007). In this regard, one should consider that “noisy and chaotic environments may leave these students on edge and unable to learn in the classroom” (Foden, 2008). Thus, it is advised to educate classmates about these particularities of autists, in order to develop their understanding and obtain their support in educating students with special needs. In addition, it is better not to interfere with child’s rituals, attempts to communicate, or repetitive actions, since the outcomes may impede the general studying process of entire class. Instead, teachers should utilize these peculiarities; for instance, as a part of games, while including autists into interaction with peers (Zhang & Griffin 2007).

Striving to involve children with ASD into socializing with others, teachers should consider that the diversities of impaired students may engage bullying. In this respect, it is critically important to anticipate the plausible reactions of all health and disabled children. Scrutinizing this issue, one can rightfully suggest that “isolated children who lack social skills are at increased risk for bullying” (Foden & Anderson, 2012). To lessen the plausibility of bullying requires creating the proper environment. Specifically, the class should be prepared to accept students with autism and welcome their individual differences. Furthermore, eliminating the occurrence of bulling is connected with the increasing ethical and moral behavior of healthy students. Hence, it is necessary to anticipate the possible adverse reactions of students with cognitive impairments. One of the ways to succeed with this task is to preserve the routine, as it was described above. Another way is to include in this process the peers by enhanncing their understanding that disabled children cannot control their responses and teach the class to reveal friendliness, forgiveness, and positive attitude in order to minimize the likelihood of inadequate communication of students with autism (Foden, 2008). Teachers should understand and educate the class that due to limited communicative skills, the pupils with autism express themselves in other, sometimes strange or even hostile ways. For instance, they are often engaged in problem behaviors that “may include temper tantrums, running about the room, loud vocalizations, self-injurious activities, or other disruptive or distracting behaviors” (Organization for Autism Research, 2010). In these circumstances, acceptance, understanding, creating safe environment (sameness) and directing problem behaviors towards educational activities are the strategies that should help to mitigate the troubles connected with special needs of students with autism.

What is more, academic performance of students with autism can be greatly improved by providing lots of visuals. Considering that these children require more thorough instructions, explanations and greater assistance in studying, scientists believe that providing supportive visuals is an effective approach towards increasing academic performance of students with ASD. The implementation of visuals is proved to be effective in teaching various skills, including literacy, “cooking, encouraging positive behavior, and providing activity schedules” (Harris, 2012). The fact is that supportive visuals help to reduce anxiety by increasing the levels of concentration and improving understanding of the tasks. Besides, the same visuals can be utilized at home or in other facilities that disabled students are connected to. In such case, the educational value of visuals is even enhanced. Given the benevolent role of visuals, teachers are recommended to use computer programs for educating students with ASD. The fact is that, computer programs are predictable and comprise the unchangeable scenario of tasks and actions. Therefore, they are in compliance with the autists’ adherence to routine and repetitive actions.

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Conclusion

To sum up the above-mentioned, it is necessary to stress that the concerns connected with inclusive education grow simultaneously together with the increase of the ratio of children with autism. General classrooms are not yet ready to accept students with cognitive impairments. In particular, teachers lack the experience of involving autists into academic activities. Besides, educational personnel have limited supportive resources, such as appropriate guidance, tools, and methods of educating students with ASD. In addition, teachers must prepare other students and their parents for the increasing need for inclusive education. This and other concerns and speculations are reinforced by the fact that children with autism have special needs, such as routine and repetitive actions, and absence of distractions, narrow subjects of interest, and special means of communication. These diversities may trigger bullying in class. Therefore, teachers must be ready to address this issue as well. In general, endeavoring to increase the effectiveness of inclusive education, teachers should carefully study cognitive peculiarities of their students and prepare the appropriate treatment and studying methods. Specifically, the diversities of students with ASD can be utilized in academic activities in the form of games. Besides, their narrowed interests should be considered and developed further. Moreover, a teacher needs to enhance moral and ethical behaviors of the other class mates, in order to anticipate conflicts and/or bullying. Finally, it is recommended to include as much visuals as possible, including computer programs. Such approach has proven to be effective in educating the autists.

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