How are we preparing our education system for kids on the autism spectrum?
With an estimated 107,000 Australian children between the ages of 5 and 19 years on the autism spectrum, educating students on the spectrum is a critical issue for the education sector.
Research shows that many students on the autism spectrum struggle in the education system, facing problems such as exclusion, bullying, depression and anxiety, and they are often misunderstood by educators, peers and the wider community.
Combine this with teachers who already feel unsupported and under-resourced and an increase in prevalence rates for kids on the autism spectrum and you might think the future looks pretty bleak.
“Not so,” says Dr Trevor Clark, National Director Research at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) and Chair of the upcoming 2018 Aspect Autism in Education (AIE) conference, which is aiming to help shape successful futures for all students on the spectrum, by looking at the latest research, evidence-informed practice and by listening to voices of our young people on the spectrum.
“There is a bright future out there for students on the autism spectrum and their teachers if we choose to work together to find new approaches to teaching and supporting kids on the autism spectrum.
Research tells us that even introducing small changes in the classroom to help and support students on the spectrum makes an enormous difference – and not just to the students on the spectrum but to all the students in the classroom.
Changes like introducing visual supports, structuring the classroom environment and adopting Positive Behaviour Support strategies have all been shown to have a positive impact on learning, particularly for students on the spectrum,” Dr Clark said.
Emily Rubin, the Director of the Educational Outreach Program at the Marcus Autism Centre in the US and an academic affiliate of Emory University and an NIH Autism Centre of Excellence, agrees.
“Building learning environments that support social and emotional engagement plays a critical role in educating children on the autism spectrum, but has been shown to have an equally important impact on all children.
“When we develop specific social and emotional engagement strategies into our education programs we fuel learning and open new doors for students,” Ms Rubin said
As the key note speaker at the 2018 AIE Conference, Ms Rubin will discuss the strategies she has developed and how they have helped in the classroom.
The AIE Conference will be held in Brisbane on 30 – 31 August at the Royal International Convention Centre, Brisbane. Other highlights include:
- The largest number of keynote and symposium speakers on the autism spectrum of any Australian conference to date
- An Autism Education Hackathon, allowing participants to work together in teams to solve challenges based on their own interests and experience.
- A number of Ask the Expert Panels, including a panel of students who are on the autism spectrum discussing both the challenges and the positive experiences of their education.
- Masterclasses in Sensory vs Behaviour: Applying the evidence to support students on the autism spectrum, Inclusive early childhood services and Autism and technology.
To view the program and for a full list of speakers visit the 2018 AIE Conference site.