Inclusion is about being proactive in identifying the barriers learners encounter in attempting to access opportunities for quality education, and then removing those barriers.
It is about meeting the needs of all children to ensure they get a quality education and have the opportunity to reach their potential.
Often assumptions are made that “inclusion” means students need to be in mainstream classrooms at all times. When inclusion is interpreted in this way, students may be unable to access adjustments that adequately address and meet their needs.
The implementation of any adjustments need to be tailored to the students’ individual needs.
Schools also need to be careful not to run the risk of overgeneralising, as students with autism can be as different from each other as any other students.
Students on the spectrum often need time away from other students and the demands of the mainstream classroom. The frequency with which this needs to happen will be based on the individual needs of the students involved, and where they go in these situations would be dependent on the school setting.
Doing this would help them to not only manage the social and sensory challenges of the school environment, but also the stress and anxiety they can experience.
Ideas for teachers
During the survey, students with autism made some suggestions as to how teachers could better support their needs.
They suggested that it would be useful if teachers could help them cope with change and transition by simply reminding them when a change was looming.
They also asked to use a tablet or laptop to help with school work, instead of handwriting. This can help students on the spectrum overcome many of the motor skill difficulties that make handwriting difficult.
Giving students a copy of instructions or information that their teacher writes on the board may also help.
Students with autism can find tasks requiring a lot of planning and organisation such as managing assignments, participating in assessments, navigating learning tasks, and completing homework extremely difficult.
This can have a negative impact on their cognitive, social and academic ability.
Schools could allow older students to take photos of these instructions using their mobile phone or tablet.
Having a quiet space to complete their assessments and getting assistance with organising themselves and the social aspects of school were also raised as important strategies.
How to better support students
There are a number of barriers to providing better and appropriate support to meet the educational needs of students with autism.
These include: funding, lack of knowledge and training, lack of specialist support staff and time, lack of appropriate resourcing and class sizes.