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This essay is divided in to three main parts: the first part discusses the inclusion for special education needs students and specified on inclusion for students with ASD and discuss the role of inclusive policies in school, school managers and staff in generating a positive experience for autistic students; the second part discusses some of the barriers to learning that students with autism might have: including their social impairments, language development and some of other symptoms they might have such as obsession with routine. The third part illustrates how these barriers might be overcome and gives more then one solution such as training for skills and attitude for teachers and students.
Making the school experience a positive one for all students with learning difficulties and practically for students with ASD
Inclusion is the right for all students regardless of their background or disability and to be given an equal opportunity with non-disabled people in the society " inclusion is a process of meshing general and special education reform initiative and strategies to achieve in order to achieve a unified system of public education that incorporates all children and youth as active, fully participating members of the school community, that views diversity as the and that achieve a high quality education for each student by assuring meaningful effective teaching, and necessary support for each student" (Ceri,1997, p.53) .
Including students with learning difficulties requires supporting them with the services they need to enable them to be included successfully in school. The supporting efforts included forming inclusive policy in schools to give the right for each individual to be included and have equal opportunities (Armstrong, Armstrong, Barton, 2000); trained teachers in dealing with student with learning difficulties; taking into consideration the individuals' needs and try to meet them (Lewis, Norwich 2005); having an additional support team in place with an adequate supportive framework, including regular special education assessments in order to assess the progress of the student and to adjust, as necessary, their educational need and the additional support they receive. Managers in schools play a significant role as well in making the school more positive experience for pupils with learning difficulties (Homas, Walker, Webb, 1998). In a line with that, each school should include encouraging policy for involving parents in the learning process for their children as this a crucial factor to ensure successful inclusion and then successful leaning to the students (Hornby, 1995;Ceri, 1997).
Policy and curriculum
Regarding to the school policy, the aim of inclusive policy is to "prevent the marginalization for people who experience unfavourable circumstances in life'' (Vitello, Mithaug, 1998, p24). The role of Inclusive policy in school is to offer educational opportunities to each individual, taking into consideration all their different needs and regardless of their disability, culture or race. . Educations system should be formed on the basis of meeting each individual needs as some students are vary in their needs. A school policy should take into consideration how to address the need for the entire student in the classroom such as gifted and talented students or student with learning difficulties such as children with ASD and apply inclusive curriculum to meet such these students need.
In terms of inclusive curriculum the national curriculum council (1990) defined three main roles for developing inclusive curriculum: 'setting suitable learning challenges'. This means that the teacher should facilitate an experience of success by providing students suitable learning for their abilities, not harder and not easier: 'Responding to pupils diversity learning needs'; teacher have to recognize their students need and try to meet all of them; 'Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups for pupils': some individuals have a special requirement for learning and assessment and if such requirements have not been addressed then students may fail in their learning which could create barriers to learning for them. Therefore, teachers have to meet all these requirements and assess the students' progression in the learning process. (National curriculum council, 1990, p.18).
The role of school managers
To implement inclusion in schools, schools have to consider inclusion as one of the main goal that school have to achieve, with the importance of principals leading the school toward inclusive setting. The school managers have a huge responsibility to ensure inclusion practice in school. They have to make sure that; the inclusion procedures are followed in schools and all the inclusive policies are applied in the classroom. They have to assess whether their staff needs for any further training in order to create a positive learning experience for student with learning difficulties (Eaney, 2006). In line with that, managers have to support the communication between the stockholders inside the school such as between special education coordinator and the subject teacher as it is key element in successful inclusion, as one student stated: " It is the teachers [that] are rubbish - they know about their subject but they know nothing about us with Asperger's syndrome'' (Umphrey, Lewis, 2008, p.135) this expression from a student in mainstream school who felt that teacher does not understand him. In this case the teacher's lack of experience and information may cause the problem. However, this would not put the responsibility away from the teacher but it shows the importance of the communication between the staff in the school for better understanding for students with learning difficulties ((Eaney, 2006; Umphrey, et al., 2008).
(Kugelmass, Ainscow, 2005) argued, head teachers and other school managers as leaders are expected to make commitments to all their students, "Educating every child is not just about SATs or GCSEs or all of that standards written agenda that the government is so obsessed with, it's about turning them [out] as human beings and developing of the skills to enable them to go on learning through their lives and what it is to be a member of the community and so on and so on.'' (Umphrey,et al., 2008, p.134) for example. A school leader made this commitment. As such, this attitude for school mangers reflects a positive attitude toward inclusion and it is encouraging for school staff to meet their students needs which would lead to "here they treat me just like all the other pupils, but also provide the backup that I need to" (Thomas, Vaughan, 2004, p.180). A student with learning difficulties in mainstream school made this statement, as it is the main aim for inclusion to give the all the students equal opportunities for learning. As such, school managers are fundamental in determining the success of any mainstreaming school experience for a student with learning difficulties.
On the other hand, the opposite is true, If a school manager, or head teacher shows any sign of a negative attitude towards special needs students, this will reflect this negative attitude in the inclusion for student with learning difficulties in school, "I think one of the major difficulties is that the senior management team don't really understand about these children's needs''(Umphrey, et al., 2008, p134). This statement was taken from special education coordinator in mainstream school when the head teacher has a negative attitude toward inclusion, indeed in such condition this may lead to exclusion and not inclusion (Umphrey, et al., 2008). Concerning the head teacher negative attitude toward inclusion and special for children with ASD, Praisner (2003) illustrates that such negative attitudes for school leaders could lead him to fail to provide a suitable educational programme and fail to provide the students with the additional services they might need such as, support staff. As consequences a negative learning experience for children with learning difficulties might develop.
The role of teachers
In line with head teacher attitude toward children with learning difficulties, Campbell (2006) argued that, attitude of teachers toward children with learning difficulties is an important in creating a positive learning experience in the school for them. This is for several reasons such as the influence that teachers have over the student's attitude and their academic attainment. Indeed, Teachers hold a huge responsibility in making inclusion a successful experience for children with learning difficulties. (Riseser, 2004) summaries teachers responsibilities as followed; teacher have to plan their lessons in a advance in order to ensure a satisfactory improvement for each child in the class room; making the atmosphere of the classroom challenging, encouraging and enjoyable for all the students; seeking each student needs and adapting a suitable teaching methods for individuals; providing easy access to the learning resources and encouraging the student to engage in school activities together; monitoring students progressions.
In summary, including an inclusive policy in school is significant in making school a positive learning experience for pupils with learning difficulties. Thomas, Loxley (2007) claim that it is important to reform educational policy to ensure it dictates that all members of society should be treated in the same manner and offered the same opportunities in life and this policy should be applied in schools as a part of the society. However I firmly believe developing and maintaining an inclusive policy in schools is a crucial for the inclusion process but that would be conditional upon the practitioner attitude toward students with learning difficulties in the school such as and the degree of training they have had to dealing with these students. They may accept students with learning difficulties in the school physically but do not fully include them " Some teachers ignore kids with learning disabilities altogether ... even though they are in the lessons they are stood separately''(Umphrey, et al., 2008, p.134) this statement was taken from learning support assistance in mainstream school. Therefore the responsibility falls on the managers, teachers and all the stockholders in the school in their attitude and training to meet all students' needs and to make their inclusion a successful learning experience for them.
Inclusion for students with ASD
Inclusion for students with ASD is not different from inclusion for students with learning difficulties, which was discussed in the previous part. However, taking into consideration their specific characteristics is important in making schools a positive learning experience for them. ASD is " a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way in which a person communicates and related to people around them" (Wall, 2010.p.7). The term 'autism' derived form Greek word 'autos' which means 'self' and it was first identified by Kanner in 1943 and then by Hans Asperger in 1944 while they were studying children behaviours (Worth, Rynolds, 2008) and both of these researchers believed that children are born with it. The cause for this disorders is wildly believe to have a biological basis, however the research in this area is still ongoing (Sugden, 2010).
(Barnard, Prior, Potter, 2000) carried out a study about the notion of inclusion for autism and they examined this idea in wider context, which include the society and arrived to "inclusion can not rely on the interest, commitment and enthusiasm of one or two individuals" (Barnard et al, 2000, p.12). They emphasised the essential role for every individual who involved with the child to support the inclusion process. However, that does not mean involving some of the individuals and not all of them would result failing in including for students with ASD. Sugden (2010) stated that involving and training each individual in the school or in the society in which the child is involved in some manner, in a real situation may seem hard to achieve.
In terms of education for children with ASD, Moore (2007) stated that autistic children are academically able to learn. As a consequence, he assumed that autistic students should have the ability to cope in mainstream schools. Furthermore, Jordan (2008) added that education should be a useful therapeutic approach for children with ASD, however that would depend on many factors such as, training teacher to teach student with ASD which could make mainstream schools positive learning experiences for children with ASD; using Information and communication technologies (ICT) in teaching pupils with ASD, which could help students with ASD to learn; for students with severe autism, providing them with specialist support may be useful, but that should not segregate them; a suitable curriculum and teaching methods for students with ASD.
However, Jordan (2008) claimed that, teaching autistic students is not an easy task for the teacher, as it is, learning for them in our school system is hard and that would be for some of the difficulties they have which will be illustrated in the next part of the assignment such as, difficulties in communication with other people (Umphrey, et al., 2008); the preference for routine (Moore, 2007), predictability and low sensory stimulation; preferred learning style which is sometimes challenging for teachers to teach these students some skills (Jordan, 2005). The next paragraphs will illustrate these symptoms in details.
Barriers to inclusion for students with ASD
ASD is a lifelong developmental disability as it was illustrated in the definition in the previous part and it is characterised by impairments in social interaction, social imagination and social communication, with these impairments occurring to different degrees in different individuals, leading Wing and Gould (1979) to the establishment of term 'autistic spectrum disorder' to describe a wide range of abilities and disabilities caused by deficiencies in these areas (Umphrey, et al., 2008; Good Schools Guide, 2010).
ASD influences individuals in many ways, such as their language development, their ability to interact with other people and the ways in which they deal with routines. They may experience impairment in their language, and it is likely that children with ASD may have delays when they start to speak compared to typically developed children. Even in the usage of language, once their language is developed, it may be not as typically developed child in term of vocabulary they use and in the way they speak (Worth, et al., 2008; Good Schools Guide, 2010).
Children with Autism have a problem in developing social relationships, as they can fail to understand the social interaction. Moreover, It is difficult for autistic children to use or even understand, what do social cues are such as non-verbal signals or eye contact mean. This may cause the children with ASD to misunderstand the others and may react improperly to them. Furthermore, children with autism have a deficit in empathy, which is the ability to understand people's feeling and understand their problem (Moore, 2007; Baron, Cohen, 2008; Umphrey, et al , 2008; Good Schools Guide, 2010)
In regarding to the lack of communication skills in children with ASD which could affect their interaction with the people around them, Batten (2005) stated that "the inequalities in social interaction and communication between children with ASD and their peers can lead to frustration, bullying and low self-esteem" (Batten, 2005, p.93). Since, their lack of understanding of normal forms of communication, such as verbal, non-verbal and cues, it is necessary to communicate with these children in very literal ways in order to avoid any misunderstanding to them, which may cause confusion for them and then might lead to anxiety or frustration. As consequences for this frustration or anxiety, students with ASD may demonstrate different types of behaviours than other children exhibit such as self-injurious behaviours or repetitive movement behaviours, which may affect their interaction with the others and then their inclusion in the school (Batten, 2005).
In addition, children with ASD are bound by routines and sameness, such as their need for routine in their everyday life's activities, such as in playing or in educational time. They do not like the routine to be absent from their activities as they resist any change even to their physical environment such as, in bedroom or classroom and if that happens for any reasons, this may cause for them frustration and distress. Autistic children have imagination impairment and they may engage in doing the same activities such as playing in the same game, repetitively, without showing any lack of interest (Moore, 2007; Baron, et al, 2008; Umphrey, et al, 2008). These kind of characteristics for children with Autism which may lead them to prefer some particular subjects in schools such as since and mathematics for the natural of this subject. Since they have some rules need be followed, at the same time this may lead them to dislike some interpretive subjects such as history (Good Schools Guide, 2010).
All of these symptoms for Autistic children verify that they may experience difficulties in learning in the school, beside the fact that some Autistic children also have concurrent attention deficit disorders and/or other conditions, such as epilepsy or dyspraxia, which means that they are faced with significant barriers to their learning (Reid, 2005). However, a huge improvement can be made with autistic children and this improvement can be made through educating them and providing them the suitable learning environment which will require removing the barriers they may face in their learning, which may contribute to their development (Sugden , 2010).
On the other hand, students with ASD have strengths and not only weakness. In terms of education some individuals with Aspergers syndrome show a unique performance in particular subjects such as Mathematics or Computer since, and not only in education but also in working life, some companies prefer employees with Aspegers syndrome for their stickiness with routines and obeying the rules. Therefore, educators have to take that into consideration and try to support their talents (Sugden , 2010). The next section will look at the ways in which a child living with ASD can be helped to overcome the barriers that they might face in schools.
Overcoming the barriers to learning faced by students with ASD
There are multiple issues relating to include children with autism in school, In the top of what have been mentioned about their characteristics, teachers' understanding of the disability and their capability to work with children with ASD has a significant impact on including children with ASD (Batten,2005; Reid,2005). An autistic child "goes to the front of the dinner queue. A teacher standing nearby tells him not to 'barge in'. The pupil becomes anxious but does not move. The teacher insists that the pupil must not 'jump the queue'. The pupil becomes more and more agitated and hits the teacher'' (Batten, 2005, p.94), This student was excluded from the school for his behaviour, whereas, this kind of behaviour would be as a result for the student's inability to manage and understand this kind of social situation. To avoid exclusion for children with ASD from schools, Schools managers and staff may have to equip themselves and their students by sufficient knowledge to deal with this kind of situation in a suitable way. That may happen by training the staff skills and attitude to understand the ASD and how to deal with children with autism in any situation and training the student in how to behave in the classroom and in a social situation (Batten, 2005; Reid, 2005). This could promote their learning and overcome the barriers they may face in mainstream schools.
Teachers' attitude and training
Inclusion for student with ASD requires teachers with an inclusive attitude because they play an important role in including children with learning difficulties such as ASD (Ried, 2007). Some school administrators and teachers are in disagreement with the idea of including pupils with ASD as they claim that, the characteristics that children with ASD demonstrate such as, their inappropriate behaviours would not make their mainstreaming a positive learning experience for them (Connor, 2000, 2006). However, Waddington and Reed, (2005) argue that, it is the teacher's negative attitude rather than the student's capability to study in mainstream school or the school ability to include them. 2006).
It is, therefore, essential that teachers have a positive attitude toward children with ASD. As Cook (2001) argues, however, this can be influenced by different aspects, such as the amount of experience that teachers have in dealing with autistic students, the level of training the teachers have received, the preparation that teachers do in order to meet their autistic students needs in the class room and also the severity with which the autistic child presents themselves. Teachers attitudes to students with ASD is, thus, made up of a variety of different factors, each of which determines how, overall, the teacher deals with the presence of a student with ASD in their classroom.
Training teachers is an essential factor for including children with autism, as many teachers are not aware about the spectrum and don't have the ability to deal with children in the spectrum. Indeed, children with autism are varied in their needs (Sugden, 2010), it is, thus, important that teachers are trained to meet all the needs for students with ASD, and in the skills that they may need to deal with these special needs, in order that they can offer a good teaching to these students.
In regard to teachers training, Reid (2005) stated that " One of the key aspects to ensuring that inclusion is effective in terms of practice is to ensure the tasks that are set for students and the objectives that have to be met actually match the students' needs and, importantly, that students have the means to achieve these needs and outcomes" (Reid, 2005.P107). Indeed, teachers would be required to have certain skills in order to deal with children with ASD as they have to identify the individuals needs in order to meet them and then, making schools a positive leaning experience for pupils with ASD as they have different needs then the other students do. (Lewis, et al., 2005) put forward three forms of educational needs, the first one is 'common needs', which are the needs that are shared by all the students; second one, 'specific needs', which means the needs for groups of students have the same characteristics; third one, 'unique needs', which are the needs for each individual and not similar to any other one. As the idea of individual needs or what is so called 'distinct needs' position "in terms of mainstream educational provision for students with ASD is gathering support" (Hmphrey, et al , 2008, p.133).
Considering the teacher's skills, Marks, Shaw-Hegwer, Schrader, Longaker, Peters, Powers, Levine, (2003) argued that the use of antecedent management strategies in the classroom can make it as a positive learning environment for student with ASD and assisting the teacher to increase the chance for learning and reduce the students challenging behaviours. Indeed, by addressing the problems that prevent students with ASD from learning in the classroom such as their challenging behaviour, their chance of leaning in the classroom would increase. As Market et al. (2003) argued, most of autistic students would be able to understand the content of the lessons when their problem are accommodated.
In addition, students with ASD can be easily become overwhelmed by the large amount of knowledge and information they may receive in the classroom and they may not be able to recognise the most important information during the lesson in the classroom. Therefore, it is fundamental that teachers have to stress and repeat the important part of the lesson for them (Marks et al., 2003). There are many methods teachers could use to overcome this problem for these students, for example, teachers may use electronic equipment such as a recording machine and videotaping, as it enables the students to access the information as many times as they want. Moreover, teachers may use visual aids such as graphics or mind maps, to help the student visualise the information of the lesson, which can lead to better understanding for the students (Marks et al., 2003).
Providing ASD students with some electronic equipment or other methods for learning such as visual aids can be very useful for students living with ASD and may help them to perform better in the classroom (Marks et al., 2003). However, teachers should ensure not to place a very high expectation on Autistic students, because if they could not meet these expectation, this may lead them to anxiety and frustration, which could lead them to demonstrate some impropriate reaction such as, self- injury behaviours or anxiety as a student with ASD once said when he faced anxiety in mainstream school "I'm upset every second, every second I've got tears in my eyes" (Humphrey, 2008, p.43).
One of the major issues that autistic students may face is becoming familiar with the routine of the lesson as students with ASD require always a specific stricter to their activities, which requires that all information is presented in a controlled manner (Marks et al., 2003). Reducing ambiguity is the key element to mange any negative behaviour that might arise as a consequence of the ASD and so lesson planning in a detailed manner can allow the symptoms of the ASD to be controlled, as students know what will be coming in the lesson and what is expected of them (Marks et al., 2003).
Training for students with ASD
In addition, training students with autism to cope in school is an important for them to experience a positive inclusion in mainstream school setting. This may happen by priming Autistic students to what they could expect in their school time and providing them a timetable of what they should expect every day, every week and every term, which is a good technique of providing these students with antecedent management. Preparing students with ASD to position themselves and assimilate the required information before the beginning of the lesson may allow them to be symptom-free, as this preparation would give them time to recognise and understand what is required from them to do, which may enable them to come to the class, and their school experience, relatively anxiety-free (Marks et al., 2003). Indeed, preparing students with ASD in this way could be important and fruitful in managing their symptom and as consequences that may contribute to a positive learning experience for student with ASD.
Moreover, as it has been discussed that, individuals with ASD have a social impairment, which can become main barriers for their inclusion in school. As they find social cues are not understandable for them such as body language. Myles and Simpson (2001) called these cues a 'hidden curriculum'. Students have to be trained to understand these social cues and how to understand and respond to any social interaction. (Humphrey, 2008) illustrated one popular method to help autistic students to cope in social situations, which is 'social stories'. The social skills simply "describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format" (Humphrey, 2008, p.44) and the goal for these stories is to enhance children (change to 'children's') understanding to social cues and interaction as it equips the children by some skills, which they can use them in interaction with other people (Humphrey, 2008).
The role of school managers
Furthermore, school managers have a crucial role to play in including children with autism as it was discussed earlier in this assignment. (Beaney, 2006) classified the school leaders responsibility and put them into four groups. The first one would be the leader positive attitude and their commitment toward inclusion, which can influence the staff and other students as well; 'communication', empower the school staff and give them the confidence to deal with students with ASD is an important factor in making the school a good learning experience for them, as some school leaders state that "Give confidence - teachers flourish when they know they are doing well." (Beaney, 2006, p.20); 'Approach' which is the responsibility for school leaders to be in the front position in implementing inclusion and not only just to supervise it; 'development' implementing inclusion in school and providing children with ASD the service they need is really important, however, developing these services, when it is required, as some of the students may develop their symptoms and then developing the degree of training that the teacher has in order to cope with mainstreaming autistic students successfully (Beaney, 2006). In terms of development, school managers should support continuously training courses for their staff, a week every year for example, to ensure a positive attitude for teachers toward children with ASD and to develop their basic skills in dealing with students with ASD, and support any special courses for particular teachers, special education teachers for example, in the schools which enable the teachers to be highly skilled in dealing with autistic students and keep the other staff always up to date with latest information about this spectrum and how to deal with it (Sugden, 2010).
All-in-all Cutler (2000) discuss, in order to make the inclusion for autistic children a positive learning experience, a wide range of criteria need to be followed by the school, including a positive commitment made by the managers and the staff to include autistic children in regular classes; an awareness of the managers and staff about the need for the autistic students, ongoing, training for the staff to deal with these needs and continuous training for the student to enable them to overcome their barriers to learning (Humphrey, 2008) ; making links with the family and additional support staff as to the objectives and need of the student (Connor, 1996) as a parent for autistic child state "It's good for parents and practitioners to come together and to hear each other's views and frustrations." (Beaney, 2006, p.37). When theses conditions are achieved then inclusion for student with ASD is more likely to happen.
Firstly this essay discusses how the school experience can be made a positive one for students with ASD, including a discussion of the role of inclusive policies in school, school managers and staff in generating this positive experience and It was shown the important of them in making school a positive learning experience for student with learning difficulties such as those with ASD. Then the barriers to learning for autistic students as a result of their condition were discussed, such as difficulties in social interactions, with communication and problems with frustration and anxiety, which may lead the child to demonstrate some extreme behaviours such as self-injury which would be disruptive to their learning in the school. For these barriers some solutions were put forward such as training attitude and skills for teacher and students, accommodating the needs of students with ASD via antecedent management and training the student how to overcome some of the barriers they may face.