Teachers' readiness to support children with Asperger's syndrome within mainstream schools

Spies, Hannalie Lehome (2013-03)

Thesis (MEdPsych)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Bibliography

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In White Paper 6 (Special Needs Education: Building an Inclusive Education and Training System), a framework was provided to establish an inclusive education and training system in South Africa. This development followed trends similar to those in other countries. The inclusive approach emerged as a key international policy at the World Conference on Special Needs Education in Salamanca, in 1994 in Spain. One of the implications of an inclusive education (IE) policy is the provision of appropriate educational opportunities for all learners, including those with disabilities, in the general education class. Therefore school policies that support this educational environment, and that provide administrative assistance, appropriate materials and resources, as well as qualified teachers, are needed. Literature states that teachers all over the world experience difficulties on different levels of IE. High school teachers, for instance, experience unique challenges and difficulties with the implementation of inclusive principles. Asperger's syndrome (AS), the focus of this study, is one of the disorders directly affected by an inclusive policy. The number of learners diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), as well as the number attending mainstream education, has grown worldwide. The characteristics of AS lead to challenges with learning behaviour and socialisation, and cause significant difficulties for classroom teachers, who need to maintain a learning environment that is conducive to learning by all learners. Although there is an increasing flow of information available relating to support, accommodations, methods and information, this does not ensure that educators will be aware of and effectively use these sources. Since teachers are the main team players in the successful implementation of IE, this study aimed to investigate exactly how ready they are to implement IE practices, especially with regard to supporting children diagnosed with AS. The theoretical framework on which this study was based was Bronfenbrenner's bioecological model. This study's research methodology can be described as basic qualitative research embedded within an interpretive paradigm. Purposive sampling was used to select participants from three different schools in the Western Cape Province in South Africa. Three methods of data collection were employed, namely reflective questions, as well as semi-structured individual and focus group interviews. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. With Bronfenbrenner's bioecological model as the backdrop, the research findings indicate that the readiness of the participating teachers for IE, and therefore by implication their readiness to include learners with AS in the mainstream classes, is compromised. The findings indicate that this lack of readiness comprises factors on macro-, meso-, exo- and micro-system levels. These systems do not appear to be ready for IE, and therefore, although there is willingness to learn among the teachers in this study, it seems as though they are not ready for the inclusion of learners diagnosed with AS in their classes. Support needs to be aimed at increasing teachers' understanding of the philosophical principles of IE in general, but also increasing their knowledge of AS and providing them with practical suggestions regarding best practises relating to the inclusion of learners with AS in their mainstream classes. Since teachers seem not to be specialists in the support of learners with barriers to learning, professionals who will be able to support them in this regard need to be employed in the schools.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In Witskrif 6 (Spesiale Onderwysbehoeftes: Die Vestiging van 'n Inklusiewe Onderwys- en Opleidingstelsel) is 'n raamwerk verskaf vir die vestiging van 'n inklusiewe onderwys- en opleidingstelsel in Suid-Afrika. Hierdie ontwikkeling het gevolg op soortgelyke tendense in ander lande. Die inklusiewe benadering het na vore getree as 'n sleutel internasionale beleid by die Wêreldkongres oor Spesiale Onderwysbehoeftes wat in 1994 in Salamanca, Spanje gehou is. Een van die aspekte wat fundamenteel is tot die beleid van inklusiewe onderwys (IO) is die verskaffing van gepaste opvoedkundige geleenthede aan alle leerders, insluitend dié met gestremdhede, in die algemene klaskamer. Skoolbeleide wat hierdie opvoedkundige omgewing ondersteun, en wat administratiewe bystand, gepaste materiale en hulpbronne, sowel as gekwalifiseerde onderwysers verskaf, word benodig. Volgens die literatuur ervaar onderwysers die wêreld oor probleme op verskillende vlakke van IO. Hoërskoolonderwysers, byvoorbeeld, ervaar unieke uitdagings en probleme met die implementering van inklusiewe beginsels. Asperger se sindroom (AS), die fokus van hierdie studie, is een van die stoornisse wat direk deur 'n inklusiewe beleid geraak word. Die aantal leerders wat met outismespektrumstoornisse (ASS) gediagnoseer word, sowel as die aantal wat hoofstroomonderrig ontvang, neem wêreldwyd toe. Die kenmerke van AS lei tot uitdagings in leergedrag en sosialisering, en veroorsaak aansienlike probleme vir klasonderwysers, wat 'n leeromgewing moet kan onderhou waarin alle leerders die vermoë het om te leer. Hoewel daar 'n toenemende vloei van inligting is wat verband hou met ondersteuning, tegemoetkomings, metodes en inligting, verseker dit egter nie dat opvoeders bewus sal wees van hierdie bronne nie en hulle doeltreffend sal gebruik nie. Aangesien onderwysers die vernaamste spanlede is in die suksesvolle implementering van IO, was die doelwit van hierdie studie om ondersoek in te stel na presies hoé gereed hulle is om IO-praktyke te implementeer, veral met betrekking tot ondersteuning aan kinders wat met AS gediagnoseer is. Die teoretiese raamwerk waarop hierdie studie geskoei is, is Bronfenbrenner se bio-ekologiese model. Die navorsingsmetodologie vir hierdie studie kan beskryf word as basiese kwalitatiewe navorsing ingebed in 'n interpretatiewe paradigma. Doelgerigte steekproefneming is gebruik om deelnemers in drie verskillende skole in die Wes-Kaap provinsie in Suid-Afrika te selekteer. Drie dataversamelingsmetodes is gebruik, naamlik reflektiewe vrae, asook halfgestruktureerde individuele en fokusgroeponderhoude. Tematiese analise is gebruik om die data te analiseer. Met Bronfenbrenner se bio-ekologiese model as agtergrond kon die navorsingsbevindings wys dat die gereedheid van die deelnemende onderwysers in hierdie studie vir IO, en by implikasie dus hulle gereedheid om leerders met AS in hoofstroomklasse in te sluit, onvoldoende is. Die bevindinge dui aan dat hierdie tekort aan gereedheid faktore op makro-, meso-, ekso- en mikro-sistemiese vlakke omvat. Hierdie stelsels blyk nie gereed vir IO te wees nie en hoewel daar 'n bereidheid is om te leer by die onderwysers in hierdie studie, is hulle nie gereed om leerders wat met AS gediagnoseer is, in hulle klasse in te sluit nie. Ondersteuning moet daarop gerig wees om die onderwysers se begrip van die filosofiese beginsels onderliggend aan IO in die algemeen te verhoog, sowel as hulle kennis van AS, en om hulle praktiese voorstelle te gee m.b.t. beste praktyk in verband met die insluiting van leerders met AS in hulle hoofstroomklasse. Aangesien dit voorkom asof onderwysers nie spesialiste is in die ondersteuning van leerders met struikelblokke tot leer nie, moet professionele persone wat hulle in hierdie opsig kan help, deur die skole aangestel word.

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