Student Teachers' Knowledge and Perceptions of Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: With increasing numbers of children with diagnoses of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) being educated within the mainstream classroom, it is becoming more and more important that teachers have an understanding of the condition and a positive outlook towards the integration of these children within mainstream education. Aims: This study aimed to explore student teachers': (1) knowledge of ASD (2) attitudes towards children with ASD and their inclusion within mainstream education and (3) feelings towards teaching a child with ASD as part of their mainstream class. Additional hypotheses looked at the student teachers' knowledge in relation to: (1) whether or not they had had previous personal contact with an individual with ASD and (2) their perceived knowledge of the condition. Procedure: A survey design was implemented, with the use of a questionnaire to elicit information from forty-one, post-graduate certificate of education (PGCE) students, currently undertaking the one year course to become a primary school teacher. The questionnaire gathered data relating to participants' knowledge of ASD and their attitudes towards the integration of these children within mainstream education. Results: The student teachers were found to have a reasonable knowledge of ASD and some of the strategies for its management, although there were found to be gaps in their knowledge. Those students who had had previous experience of working with an individual with ASD, were not necessarily more knowledgeable about the condition than those without experience. Many of the student teachers questioned believed their knowledge of ASD to be limited and requested that more training be given at university level. The trainee teachers' attitudes towards teaching a child with ASD as part of a mainstream class were generally positive, although many noted that they would need appropriate training and support for it to be completely successful. Conclusions: Whilst the student teachers in this study were more knowledgeable than those of previous research (Stone and Rosenbaum 1988; Helps et al 1999; Mavropoulou and Padeliadu 2000; McGregor and Campbell 2001) and viewed the inclusion of ASD children positively, the findings of this study indicate that some ASD teaching during teacher training would be beneficial.
B.Sc.(Hons) Speech and Language Therapy
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