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How a new approach can help kids on the autism spectrum

29 May 2023

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Excerpt from an article published in the Australian Financial Review on May 29th and authored by Julie Hare, education editor. Photo: Louise Kennerley (Australian Financial Review)

A pioneering approach to helping children from disadvantaged and challenging backgrounds achieve academically is being adopted by autism-specific schools in Australia.

Canadian academic Lyn Sharratt was in Australia last week to work with teachers and principals of Aspect Schools, a network of nine independent schools and 113 satellite classes based in mainstream settings that are for children on the autism spectrum.

Dr Sharratt worked with fellow University of Toronto academic Michael Fullan to develop an approach to educating children from challenging backgrounds.

We found those children who were taught using our 14 parameters increased [their] growth and achievement. They jumped the curve and moved beyond what anyone thought possible due to their challenging circumstances,” Dr Sharratt said.

Maryanne Gosling, national director of education at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), which runs the Aspect Schools, said early identification of autism was essential in improving learning and social outcomes.

Dr Sharratt’s overarching belief that all students can achieve high standards given the right time and support is completely aligned with Aspect’s philosophy of creating inclusive, equitable and supportive learning environments,” Ms Gosling said.

While the framework has been adopted in schools in Canada, the US, Australia, Chile and Wales, this is the first time the approach will be used for autistic children.

Dr Sharratt said out of the 14 principles, the first and last were the most important when dealing with autistic students.

The first parameter is that all educators should have a shared belief and understanding that all students can learn. Teachers need high expectations of what students can achieve,” she said.

The last parameter is that we all own the students in our care, and those in the school down the road as well. So, we should share teaching practices that make an impact within our schools with others.

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