Autism can be classified as a developmentaldisorder characterized by severe impairments in social interaction andcommunication. Turnbull (2007) said that children with autism are the mostdifficult students to place in mainstream classrooms.
This is highlighted inPeter Westwood’s book, “Common-sense Methods for Children with SpecialEducation Needs”, where it says that 12% of children with autism from U.S.,Australia and Britain receive their education in mainstream classrooms. In the early 2000’s has been a drasticincrease in the number of children that have been diagnosed with an autisticspectrum disorder (ASD; Centres for Disease Control, 2009; Kogan et al., 2009)and to this day autism is still a significant obstacle in having a good sociallife.
However, the right support can make an incredible difference inchildren’s lives, that is why children diagnosed with ASD should find thesupport they need at school. In 2011, B. Reid concluded in his study that”34% of children on the autism spectrum say that the worst thingabout being at school is being picked on” (B. Reid (2011), p.7). Humphrey andHebron (2013) found that “behaviour difficulties, age, use of public transport,educational placement in mainstream settings, and being in receipt of SENDprovision that involved external professional support were associated withincreased exposure to bullying” (Taylor & Francis (2014), p.
851). The samearticle talks about how bullying can be prevented by working with teachers andsupport staff. Pointing out that there are fewer incidents in schools withbetter teacher-student relations. The support staff is also very important forpreventing or reducing bullying. “The evidence suggests that while such staffprovide critical support that can enhance the academic engagement (e.g.
staying’on-task’), the manner in which they are typically deployed (e.g. intensive,1:1 in-class support) can inadvertently reduce opportunities for social interactionand increase social distance from peers (Symes and Humphrey 2012)” (Taylor& Francis (2014), p.856). To further explain the importance ofteacher-student and staff relations, Humphrey and Symes designed an experimentwhere 36 pupils with ASD were interviewed using “semi-structured interviews”.The dialogue was conducted to provide “a voice for participants and a windowinto their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a field dominated byimpersonal experimental studies” (Humphrey and Symes (2010), p.83) and to seehow students with ASD react to bullying and their use of social support. Thestudents responded to bullying in a range of different strategies ranging fromseeking help to resorting to violence.
The most common response was talking toa teacher or a teaching assistant. Participants also reported turning to afriend in case of problems with another pupil. “Teachers appeared to be themost common source of social support in response to bullying. This findingresonates with the quantitative study that took place alongside this work, in whichsupport from teachers was ranked higher than any other potential source” (Humphreyand Symes (2010), p.
88).For Educational Psychologists to provide asolution for this, their behaviour needs to be taken into consideration and tofind ways to improve it. Over the years it has been proved that thecontribution of specialists can improve the lifestyle of children with ASD. Inrelation to bullying, it is important to include such individuals because thevictims may turn for help during the time spend together.
There has been a lotstudies that research the behaviour of such children, like the study conductedby Aldred, Green, and Adams (2004) where 28 children with autism wererandomized into control groups: younger versus older and lower functioningversus higher functioning. The results showed significantly improvedfunctioning, including reduced autism, it also increased expressive vocabularyand communication. “Although the study lacks standardized measures ofdevelopmental performance, the finding of marked increases in child spokenlanguage in the treated group is an important outcome, given the strongpredictive relationships between expressive language abilities in the preschoolyears and better outcomes later” (S. J. Rogers & L.
A. Vismara (2008), p.6).Taking into consideration the informationprovided, it is to expect that in these challenges errors can occur. It isimportant to keep in mind that children with ASD are different from each otherso not every one of them will seek for help, thus it can lead to other problemslike taking the matter into their hands and respond with violence.
The same article by B. Reid (2011) concludedthat “63% of children on the autism spectrum are not in the kind of schooltheir parents believe would best support them” (B. Reid (2011), p.18). Usually,children with ASD that remain in mainstream schools do not have the rightsupport and resources to be able to develop and it can also cause more damageat a psychological level, facing isolation and ridicule.
To further understandthe significance of special classrooms one needs to understand what ASD programdevelopment means. This type of program requires a team of personnel thatevaluates an improves the program while monitoring the activities and the dataused to make decisions about changes required. (Caroline I.
Magyar, 2011).Avramidis etal (2000) explain that educatorsdo not have an empathetic understanding of disabling conditions, nor are theyready to accept students with special needs. “Center and Ward’s (1987) studywith regular teachers indicated that their attitudes to integration reflectedlack of confidence both in their own instructional skills and in the quality ofsupport personnel available to them” (Avramidis, Bayliss & Burden (2000)p.193). However, in the most recent years, Avramidis et al. (2000) conducts a survey usingthe Likert scale measuring the teacher’s beliefs regarding inclusion, asemantic differential scale measuring the emotional reactions when dealing withnewly included SEN children and another Likert scale measuring intentions.While the results were significantly better, teachers having a positiveattitude towards special needs children and their inclusion, it is veryimportant to realize that they can only provide help up to a certain point,therefore the children would not be able to develop.
The solution to this problem is for thechildren with ASD to attend a special school. It has been reported thatchildren who receive some type of help, either from a teacher figure or from aspecialist, has shown improvement in their speech pattern and behaviour, alltogether enhancing their social lives. An example would be the study of 89children that attended a special needs school from the Netherlands in 2011. Theresearchers, Manti et al.
, werelooking at the 30 teaching hours per week that children received, and themethods used, more specific structure and control by using objects andpictograms. “Another basic goal was to enhance children’s socioemotional skillsby providing affective support and eliciting positive affect in order toincrease children’s attention and motivation to socialise with others” (Manti et al. 2011, p.415). After two years ofspecial school attendance, there was a difference in the scores of childrenwith ASD than those with other special needs.However, the study also reported that even ifaccording to the teachers there was a decrease in autism symptoms, the parentswere not satisfied with the results. A reason for that is that the children, inthis case, behaved differently in structured environments.
“In fact, evidenceshows that children with autism perform completely differently in highlypredictable and structured environments, in contrast to more complex and unstructuredenvironments” (Manti et al. 2011,p422). Another problem that can occur is when children are not able to develop nomatter how much help is being provided, depending on where they fall in theautistic spectrum disorder.
Usually, more serious cases have been reported unsuccessful.