Australia-wide autism report calls for ‘agile’ response in classrooms


A report investigating the educational needs of students with autism has identified social and emotional needs as the top priority to ensure success at school.

The Australian Educational Needs Analysis report was released at the ASPECT Autism in education conference in Melbourne’s Convention & Exhibition Centre on Friday May 6, 2016.

With an increase in the numbers of children diagnosed with autism in the past 10 years, the report indicated a high rate of exclusion with social and academic needs not often understood or supported.

The landmark two-year study, commissioned by Autism CRC, surveyed 1500 people including teachers, other school staff, students on the spectrum along with their parents and carers across Australia.

Led by QUT’s Faculty of Education Dr Beth Saggers and Professor Suzanne Carrington, the research found teachers needed more support to provide inclusive classrooms.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with autistic children is not effective,” Professor Carrington said.

“Autism is just one area of diversity and the research demonstrated the need for schools to be flexible and agile to children’s needs and often other students also benefit.”

Dr Saggers said the research also highlighted issues and obstacles children faced during their schooling years but also emphasized the difficulties teachers experienced in trying to successfully meet their needs.

“Parents, educators, students and specialists surveyed overwhelmingly indicated social emotional wellbeing as an essential element in the successful schooling for autistic children,” she said.

“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.

“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 to provide autism-specific strategies to enable children on the spectrum to access the curriculum and school environments.

The Australia-wide survey involved all states including the viewpoints of educators, specialists, parents and students with ASD.

Facts at a glance of survey participants:-

934 parents, carers and relatives

234 educators with 15.5 years average experience

172 specialists – OT, psychologists, speech language therapists

107 students aged 11-18 years with ASD.

(Source: AutismCRC, Needs Analysis Survey)

Facts at a glance on autism in schools:-

70 percent of children on spectrum are educated in mainstream schools

95 precent of ASD children experience restrictions in schools

6 per cent were not able to attend school because of their disability

44 per cent needed to attend either a special class in a mainstream school or a special school

86 per cent of ASD children report ‘having difficulty’ at school

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012)

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