Autism in the classroom: P.L.CREW

ASD in the Classroom

How does autism present in the classroom?

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex developmental condition that can present significant communication, social, and behavioural challenges, and can affect the way a student relates to their environment and their interpersonal relationships.

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

(Shore, 2018)

Each student on the autism spectrum will present differently in the classroom, which can make it challenging for teachers to meet their student’s individual needs effectively. Every student with ASD has different levels of attainment, however nonetheless, they require varying degrees of differentiation when it comes to completing classwork and assessment.

Social and Emotional Competence and Academic Learning

Educators have the responsibility to help their students develop and build on their social and emotional competence. Social and emotional competence refers to the skills that allow us to engage positively with others and help us self-regulate our emotions (Collie, Martin, & Frydenberg, 2017). Recent studies have shown that a student’s social and emotional competence has a considerable influence on their learning outcomes. Self-efficacy in particular, which is the student’s confidence in their own abilities, was found to be significantly associated with their academic attainments (Collie, Martin, & Frydenberg, 2017).

Students with ASD can experience challenges while interacting socially and communicating with their peers. Research shows that students with ASD are four times more likely to need additional learning and social-emotional support. It is also estimated that up to 72% of students with ASD have comorbid mental health conditions like anxiety and depression (Saggers, 2016). We know that classrooms are social environments that rely greatly on the ability to interact and communicate, which can intensify the levels of stress, anxiety and depression a student with ASD might experience at school. (Saggers, 2016)

If schools focus solely on the data-driven aspects of the curriculum, the lack of social and emotional competence can lead to a decrease in students’ connectedness to school, community and ultimately a decrease in academic performance.

Why is it especially important for our students with Autism?

However, students with ASD can experience challenges while interacting socially and communicating with their peers. Research shows that students with ASD are four times more likely to need additional learning and social-emotional support. It is also estimated that up to 72% of students on with ASD have comorbid mental health conditions like anxiety and depression (Saggers, 2016). We know that classrooms are social environments that rely greatly on the ability to interact and communicate, which can intensify the levels of stress, anxiety and depression a student with ASD might experience at school. (Saggers, 2016

If schools focus solely on the data-driven aspects of the curriculum, the lack of social and emotional competence can lead to a decrease in students’ connectedness to school, community and ultimately a decrease in academic performance.

We need to make sure that every student has access to a curriculum meaningful to them

Inclusion isn’t about putting every student in a mainstream classroom. It’s about the importance of identifying the learning barriers that individual students encounter in their education. Inclusion puts a focus on being proactive when removing these barriers (AITSL, 2020). It ensures that each student has access to a curriculum that is meaningful to them and provides equal opportunities for them to reach their learning potential.

Each student with ASD will have their own strengths and weaknesses that are unique to them, which is what can make differentiating so challenging for teachers. A Personalised Learning Plan is the appropriate vehicle to map the intended learning pathway for a student and are living documents that morph and change upon review at regular determined intervals. A PLP allows teachers, learning support staff, and guardians to collaboratively identify a student’s strengths and learning barriers and is key to equipping their teacher with differentiation strategies tailored to the individual student.

“Inclusive education means that all students are welcomed by their school in age-appropriate settings and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of school. Inclusive education is about how schools are developed and designed, including classrooms, programmes and activities so that all students learn and participate together.”

(Department of Education and Training, 2015)

Each student with ASD will have their own strengths and weaknesses that are unique to them, which is what can make differentiating so challenging for teachers. A Personalised Learning Plan is the appropriate vehicle to map the intended learning pathway for a student and are living documents that morph and change upon review at regular determined intervals. A PLP allows teachers, learning support staff, and guardians to collaboratively identify a student’s strengths and learning barriers and is key to equipping their teacher with differentiation strategies tailored to the individual student.

Educators need to be aware of the diversity of capabilities and needs of their students. They have the responsibility to help their students build on their strengths and tear down their learning barriers. Students with ASD have an incredibly diverse range of needs and strengths when it comes to their learning. To ensure the best possible academic outcome for all students, teachers must first have a firm understanding of their students’ capabilities, their individual needs and how they learn.

It used to be the expectation that students come to school ready for school ( i.e in the traditional sense) however today the schools that truly embrace an inclusive model, should be working to ensure they are ready for the students and be able to embrace their diversity by establishing a  positive and successful learning pathway.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

AITSL. (2020, December 3). Inclusive education: Teaching students with disability. Retrieved from Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership Limited: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/research/spotlight/inclusive-education-teaching-students-with-disability.

Collie, R., Martin, A., & Frydenberg, E. (2017, November 29). Importance of social and emotional competence for teachers, for very young children and for at-risk students: latest research. Retrieved from EduResearch: https://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=2604#:~:text=Social%20and%20emotional%20competence%20refers,%2Dregulation%20and%20self%2Dawareness

Department of Education and Training. (2015, July 16). Australian Government, Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Retrieved from Planning for Personalised Learning and Support: https://www.dese.gov.au/swd/resources/planning-personalised-learning-and-support-national-resource-0

Saggers, B. (2016, September 8). Supporting students with autism in the classroom: what teachers need to know. Retrieved from The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/supporting-students-with-autism-in-the-classroom-what-teachers-need-to-know-64814

Shore, D. S. (2018, March 18). Leading Perspectives on Disability: a Q&A with Dr. Stephen Shore.

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