The purpose of this pilot study is to develop a system of determining the effectiveness of incorporating children with autism in general education classrooms. Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of the most important challenges to the parents, learners, and teachers in an educational environment. The disorder has been compared to diabetes in some references. However, unlike diabetes; autism is barely well understood by the teachers or even the parents who have to take care of the children with this disorder. Unlike diabetes management which has well laid down procedures, autism does not have such a program. There have been many problems for children suffering from this disorder in the sense that many schools are averse to accepting students with the disease. At the same time, many schools even though they accept children with autism are hardly aware of how special the children should be treated. The net impact of this is that many autistic children who are in school, become isolated and lost in the process. Since they are not able to grasp concepts as quickly and find it even harder to express themselves, autistic children’s education has suffered immensely. This work will aim to tackle the challenge by designing experiences that combines the children suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder into the main classroom. The broad rationalization is that if students are given enough learner-centered and task-based approaches to learning, this synergy will draw from the strengths of the autistic children; resulting in the best results for both. The overall ramification will be increased admission of autistic students into schools while at the same time, ensuring that those who have been admitted get the best learning experience. This program will build the schools’ and teachers’ capacity to help students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder get the best education possible (Koegel, Vernon, Koegel, Koegel, & Paullin, 2012).
My professional mission is to provide children in the educational setting with the highest quality of physical therapy services to enable them to learn in the least restrictive environment. I will do this by identifying and applying only the treatments and interventions that are scientifically proven to be effective based on evidence. Even though total evidence may not be available in all cases, I will strive to uphold the morals and ethics of my practice. I believe that my adherence to the core values of integrity and professionalism will ensure the achievement of my goals. This may be a physical environment inclusive of physical facilities for the physically challenged students or just a non-physical learning environment. The non-physical learning environment has more to do with enhancing the teachers’ knowledge and capacity in understanding and dealing with the condition. This capacity building will ensure that the teachers are capable of designing learning experiences that take advantage of the innate capacities even of students with the disorder. By incorporating the autistic students into the general classroom, the practice alone removes the fear of stigmatization and puts the students at ease to look beyond the condition to utilize other faculties they possess which can help them improve on their learning experience (Joshua & Dunlap, 2001).
Currently, many models have been tried aiming at increasing the autistics learning at school. Most of the models employ an exclusion theory in which the children are never integrated into the general classroom but are rather confined to smaller own classes. This has also made their teaching a special calling only responded to by a few teachers. In the meantime, many students with autism fail to gain admission while those who do are doomed to poor results because of the inability of most schools to treat them with the special attention that they deserve. This special attention does not suggest separation from the others rather it presents the challenge of creating a learning experience that utilizes their other cognitive skills (Koegel et al., 2012). The need to hasten programs aimed at increasing the admission of more students suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder has never been greater. With the number of students suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder increasing; and their performance through the normal educational system showing a worrying trend, urgent measures must be taken to remedy the situation.
The absence of a system that may incorporate the students with Autism Spectrum Disorder into the main classrooms remains the biggest challenge to helping the children benefit from the gains that have been made in education (Schneider & Goldstein, 2010).
I plan the following specific aims:
- Why has it been difficult to design programs that aim incorporates students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, into the general classroom in schools?
- Why do students who suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorder perform poorly in situations where they have been separated from the general classroom?
- At what stage of development should students suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder be introduced into the general classroom?
- How best can the students suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder, be seamlessly incorporated into the general classes to realize the best educational experience?
To address these aims, a group of 10 schools that have admitted students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be randomly selected for the program. Five of the ten schools will be supplied with the program of incorporating the students with Autism Spectrum Disorder into the general classrooms. The other five shall apply the program of teaching the students with Autism Spectrum Disorder into separate classrooms. The student’s performance shall be monitored over five years at the end of which standardized exams shall be administered for the two groups.
Joshua, K H., & Dunlap G. (2001). Including children with autism in General education classrooms. A review of effective strategies. Behavior Modification, 25 (5), 762-784.
Koegel, L.K., Vernon, T.W., Koegel, R.L., Koegel, B.L., & Paullin, A.W. (2012). Improving Generalization of Peer Socialization; Gains in Inclusive School Settings Using Initiations Training. Behavior Modification, 36 (3), 361-377.
Schneider, N., &Goldstein, H. (2010). Using social stories and visual schedules to improve socially appropriate behaviors in children with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 12 (3), 149-160.