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The research project explores whether Teaching Assistants (TA's) receive enough support to implement the different teaching methods used with children with Autism (ASD) in Denbighshire mainstream Primary schools. Investigating whether the TA's have adequate training and support to implement the inclusion of children with ASD into mainstream education alongside their peers. The author will identify and analyse the different teaching methods and interventions used to educate children with ASD. The aspect of inclusion of children with ASD into mainstream education will be discussed, drawing on previous research and literature. In addition, previous research undertaken with teaching staff and TA's that educate children with ASD in mainstream schools will be highlighted and discussed.
The author is currently working in a specialist Autism school; however has previously worked in mainstream schools supporting children with ASD. Whilst working in mainstream schools, the author found that support and training for her to fulfil her role was limited. As more and more children with ASD are educated in mainstream schools since the implementation of the SENDA (2001) and The SEN Code of Practice (2001) the author wanted to establish whether support and training for TA's working with children with ASD has improved.
The education of children with ASD has changed somewhat over the last thirty years; in the 1970's children with ASD may have been educated at home or in special schools. However, today many children with ASD are successfully educated in mainstream schools along side their peers; this is referred to as Inclusion or Inclusive schooling. (Jones, 2004)
The implementation of the SENDA (2001) together with the Code of Practice (2001) has enabled the children who have a diagnosis of ASD to be educated in mainstream settings alongside their peers (WAG, 2001).
As stated by Mukherji and O'Dea (2000)
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that prevents individuals from properly understanding the world around them through their senses. This results in severe problems of social relationships, communication and behaviour.
(Mukherji and O'Dea, 2000; 168)
Definitions of inclusion are vague; generally speaking there is no universally agreed definition. Inclusion is deemed to be a process by which schools, Local Education Authorities (LEA) and others develop their cultures, policies and practices to include all pupils. With the right training, strategies and support nearly all children with special needs can be included successfully in mainstream education (Whitehurst and Howells, 2006). According to Bold (2009) inclusion is: 'Provision for all children, regardless of their ability or needs within the mainstream school' (Bold 2009; 138).The Labour government believed that inclusion is about the quality of experience; how each child is helped to learn, achieve and participate fully in school life. (DfES, 2001; 25)
When a child with ASD is educated in a mainstream school, the majority are supported by a TA. However, research has highlighted the fact that some TA's lack relevant qualifications for working with pupils with special needs; therefore pupils' needs are not being met adequately, resulting in the pupils not reaching their potential.
The Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) longitudinal study of pupils' attainment while being supported by TA's in 2005/6 and 2007/8 which included 8,000 pupils in 153 mainstream primary and secondary schools, established that TA's working with children with special needs in a mainstream setting often did not hold any qualifications. Nor did they have any experience or expertise of working with a child with complex needs, this therefore often impacted on the attainment and progress made by these pupils (DISS, 2009).
However, lead researcher Professor Peter Blatchford indicated that pupils' progress was effective when TA's had received adequate training in delivering specific teaching programmes for the pupils (DISS, 2009). There are many specific training programmes, teaching strategies and interventions have been developed to educate a child with ASD. These strategies may include:
Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is based on the theory that all learned behaviours have an antecedent and a consequence. By motivating the desired behaviour the child will be more inclined to repeat the behaviour (Sicile-Kira, 2003). ABA dates back to the early 1950's.
Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication handicapped Children (TEACCH) is a structured teaching method that was developed in the early 1970's by Eric Schlopler. The programme relies on structured teaching, using schedules and other visual teaching methods together with short, clear instructions (Mesibov, 2006).
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative communication system that has been developed to help adults and children with ASD to acquire functional communication skills (Bondy and Frost, 1994).
Makaton is a language programme that uses speech, and signs or symbols to help children with Autism communicate (The Makaton Charity, 2011).
However, it is important to remember that not all teaching methods suit all individuals. The National Autistic Society (2011) suggests that there is not one best fit approach that works for everyone (NAS, 2011).
The findings from the DISS (2009) research led the author to query whether the TA's in Denbighshire, that support children with ASD in Primary mainstream schools received any training before they started to work with the child, and whether they receive adequate ongoing support to fulfil their role. Therefore the author's research question is:
Do Teaching Assistants in Primary mainstream schools in Denbighshire receive adequate support to implement the inclusion of children on the Autistic Spectrum?
The aim of the research was to
Investigate whether Teaching Assistants receive enough support to implement the different teaching methods used with children on the Autistic Spectrum in mainstream primary schools.
To examine how the SENDA (2001) impacts on the inclusion of children with Autism in mainstream primary schools.
To explore the different teaching methods used in mainstream primary schools for children on the Autistic Spectrum.
To examine whether TA's received training before starting to work with a child with Autism in a mainstream school
To examine whether TA's receive on going training while working with a child with Autism in a mainstream school
To examine whether TA's feel they have enough support to fulfil their role.
The author will adopt a quantitative research method. By using questionnaires the author is hoping to highlight the fact that TA's are employed to work with children with ASD who have complex needs. However they do not always receive the training needed to deal with the child's needs or to facilitate their learning.
By highlighting the need for more training the author would like to see the amount of training and support increased for TA's and for them to be able to access more input from the specialist outreach service provided by the school the author is employed at. By providing the TA's with ongoing training and support, the TA's will be better equipped to facilitate the child's learning and help them reach their potential.