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Inclusive Education: Inclusion of students with ASD and students with diverse learning

needs into the ENGLISH classroom

To achieve an inclusive classroom and learning environment, acceptance and equalisation of

all students of diverse learning needs, requires the skills and effective pedagogy to

successfully cater to all students academically and socially. In order to achieve inclusion in

education is to change the negative views and assumptions and to work towards equality for

all mixed ability students within the classroom. In this paper I will be discussing the diverse

learning needs as well as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) within the English classroom.

The changing views of inclusion and legislation within Australian education settings will be

highlighted throughout and factors of teacher attitudes, adjustments and accommodations,

differential and universal design for learning, appropriate outcomes and collaboration with

stakeholders will be discussed. The teachers role is a crucial factor in achieving positive

outcomes for all students.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, a significant shift in the inclusion of individuals with

diverse learning needs were given the right to partake in mainstream classroom as opposed to

segregated classroom settings. The shift took place due to the changing perceptions of how

individuals with disabilities and diverse learning needs are entitled to and are able to

successfully be educated as equals (Konza, 2008, p.39). Qualified special needs teacher as

well as mainstream teachers were expected to cope with students of all mixed abilities and

special needs (Jenkinson, 2006, p.175). Before this was taken place, students with special

needs were segregated. Through the legislations, special needs students were disadvantaged

as they did not receive physical access, lacked appropriate pedagogy and curricula. Special

needs teachers were not supported enough and were given insufficient training which further

disadvantaged students. The segregation caused discriminatory attitudes that reinforce

marginalisation. (Howgego, Miles & Myers, 2014, p.6). In 1981, the United Nations

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acknowledged International Year of Disabled Persons which gave disabled people the right

to be an active member to society and equal opportunity (Australian Human Rights

Commission, 1981). In the following years in 1986, the Australian Human Rights

Commission Act 1986 stated in section 6 that people who are disabled have a right to fair

and equal education as well as in section 10, people who are disabled should not be

discriminated nor degraded (Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986). In 1989, The

United Nations released The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

which states that it article 23 ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and

receives education (The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989). In

1992, the Australian Government put forward the Disability Discrimination Act which

strongly highlights the rights of a disabled person and their right to inclusion in education

(DDA, 1992). In Section 22, it states that it is unlawful and is discrimination for a

disabled person to be refused entry into a school and being able to partake in curricula (DDA,

1992). In 1994 , UNESCO's Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special

Needs Education focuses on the equal education and inclusion of all mixed-ability students

in mainstream classroom (UNESCO, 1994). It clearly states that schools should

accommodate all children regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional. or other

conditions. This should include disabled and gifted childrenThis has led to the concept of

the inclusive school (UNESCO, 994, p. 6). Additionally, more support from the government

in terms of equalisation of disability and education was further heightened in 2005 when they

created the Disability Standards for Education (2005). The laws were specifically designed

to decrease discrimination towards disabled students and to ensure disabled students are

receiving and have the right to sufficient education and as all students. These laws are further

underlining the inclusion of disabled and special need students in mainstream classrooms.

AITSL (2016) have also adopted standards towards special needs and disabled students to

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ensure students are receiving support and teaching activities to ensure their participation as

well as certifying that educators know relevant policy and legislative requirements (AITSL,

2011) .The laws, frameworks and action plans are powerful factors that have contributed to

eliminating segregation and have had the influence in creating more opportunities and

equalisation for special needs and disabled students. These changes are made evident as

Graham and Sweller (2011) highlight the major incline from 1977 to 2007 with the support of

laws put forward. It was reported that an estimate of only 5000 students with a disability

attended mainstream classes. In 2007, approximately 26,500 students were reported to attend

mainstream classes (p.947). Graham and Sweller (2011) further explains that although

numbers have inclined dramatically of students of special needs in mainstream classrooms,

their findings underline that Given that physical placement in a mainstream setting does

not guarantee inclusiveness, placement statistics may not tell us much about inclusion. They

can however point towards increasing exclusion and, in that, they become a sobering

indicator that all is not well with the current system. (p. 950).

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental and behavioural disability in which is

characterized by the neurobehavioral disorders which are described by anomalies in three

behavioural domains of disturbances in social interaction, impaired communication skills,

and repetitive stereotypic behaviours (Butler., Youngs., Roberts., & Hellings, 2012, p.1).

ASD has many different characteristics that vary depending on diagnosis which may affect

the students ability to perform to the best of their ability within a mainstream classroom.

These characteristics involve speech, emotion, social skills, cognitive, behaviour and

movements (S.Cowie, personal communication, February 28, 2017). However, these

characteristics should not limit a student with ASD and other special needs ability to

participate in curricula and right to education. With effective pedagogy, adjustments,

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stakeholders and teacher attitude, inclusion for ASD and special needs students will have the

opportunity to succeed in a mainstream classroom.

Positive teacher attitude is a vital factor within the English classroom to ensure students with

ASD and special needs are receiving support and education. Teacher attitudes directly impact

teaching and student learning as it facilitates ASD and special need students in mainstream

settings (Spirko, 2015, p.2). However, educators may feel unable to provide students of

special needs as they do not receive efficient training and support. Showalter-Barnes (2008)

case study finds that "teachers with a greater knowledge base of inclusion and disabilities

possess more positive attitudes toward inclusion and teachers with greater years of experience

exhibit more negative views toward inclusion." (Showalter-Barnes, 2008, p.122)

Adopting different pedagogies may assist in their ability to successfully achieve positive

student outcome (Rodrguez, Saldana & Moreno, 2011, p.1).

Collaborating with stakeholders such as support teachers can impact greatly on a teachers

attitude and the inclusion of ASD and special need learners in the English classroom.

Stakeholders involve the students, teacher, counsellors, parents and carers, support teachers.

Rose-hill (2009) found that teachers who do not receive supports and training can cause

tension, stress, and strain for both teachers and students alike in inclusive settings (p. 189).

It is crucial that to maintain a beneficial environment for ASD and special needs students in

mainstream setting, educators must be receiving aid (Rodriguez et al., 2011, p. 8). The

approach of collaborating with stake-holders can provide educational strategies. Teachers are

required to design programs such as the students outcomes, activities and assessments,

whilst hhaving a support teacher to implement the individualised plan to ensure student

participation and inclusion (S.Cowie, personal communication, February 28, 2017).

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Teaching strategies that can be used in the English classroom when teaching ASD and special

needs learners are using visuals, motivators, timers, schedules, clear language, literal

language, explicit language, problem solving and support (Konza, 2005) (S.Cowie, personal

communication, February 28, 2017). Lindsay, Proulx, Scott & Thomson, (2014) also focus

on teaching strategies in lessons plans and classroom structure that include the strategies

mentioned earlier. Lindsay et al (2014) emphasis that resources and teaching materials are

important to include ASD and special need learners to promote inclusion. Lindsay at el.,

(2014) also focuses on the teaching methods. They highlight that the inclusive pedagogy is

important in the way it is taught not what is being taught. It is crucial that focusing on the

students abilities rather than their limitations whilst using their teaching strategies such as

routines, planning, and goal setting (p. 110). Lindsay et al., (2014) also emphasizes on the

importance of structured routine and letting them know when ssomething is going to change

in routine. Having a visual display pf thee routines and times for ASD and special need

learners can minimise disruption and stress (p.110). In terms in teaching in an English

classroom, using imagery/ pictures and asking ASD and special need learners to draw instead

of write what they have learnt is an effective teaching and learning alternative. (S.Cowie,

personal communication, February 28, 2017).

To ensure ASD and special needs learners are fully engaged and supported within the English

classroom, it is necessary to make adjustment and accommodations. This includes making

modifications and changed within the teaching environment to include all students additional

needs (Loreman, Deppler &., Harvey, 2011). Adjustments and accommodations such as

differentiated management and learning approach include greeting individual students to

monitor their mood, seating arrangements that benefit all students, standing near the student

when giving instructions, arranging classroom structure for easier access and movement, pre-

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arranged support teachers, have arranged "cooling down area, homogenous groups and pair

based learning (S.Cowie, personal communication, February 28, 2017). In regards to

teaching English, using enlarged printed worksheets, sensory (visual/audio) and scaffolding

exercises and resources are beneficial to their learning. Using word banks, mind maps, literal

comprehension and vocabulary are also essential in supporting students whilst allowing them

to still participate equally and academically. By constructing small groups and using games to

engage the students will allow ASD and special needs learners to connect with content as

well as fellow peers, strengthening their social skills (S.Cowie, personal communication,

February 28, 2017). The differentiated learning approaches in terms of assessments for ASD

and special needs learners in the English classroom is to get students to do an oral, written,

drawn or PowerPoint presentations. Another assessment that overall evaluates ASD and

special need learners knowledge is the 100 points Assessment in which gives students are

variety of questions that they need to answer through drawn and written exercises which add

up to 100 points (S.Cowie, personal communication, February 28, 2017). Designing and

modifying assessments allows the students to be able to successfully engage and participate

in learning activities and outcomes.

To ensure students inclusion and participation, curriculum must be modify to meet ASD and

special need learners abilities. The modification of the curriculum should be sure to include

focus on student achievement, be able to adapt to students learning needs and interests of the

student. Verbal and non-verbal features should be included within the curriculum to build

written skills within the English classroom, as well as build social skills. (Guide For

Educating Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2013, p.23). The pedagogy The

Universal Design is a learning framework that is designed to use alternative methods of

teaching and learning. Loreman (2007) states that in order to succeed an inclusive

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environment, the The Universal Design achieves this through attitudes and approaches to

teaching need to be met supportive policy and leadership; school and classroom processes

grounded in research-based practice; flexible curriculum and pedagogy; community

involvement; meaningful reflection, and; necessary training and resources (p.22). The use of

The Universal Design also implements the strategies that were earlier mentioned such as the

use of visuals, routines, schedules and praise. With these factors being integrated within the

lesson plans and structure of teaching in the classroom will have the influence to gain more

progress and engagement within the classroom as it will promote understanding,

independence, and academic achievement (Denning & Moody, 2013, p.12)

As legislations and shifting attitudes of ASD and special need learners, it has achieved

students to attend mainstream classes. As it has been stated earlier, although students of ASD

and special needs have been included in mainstream classes, there is a problem that these

students may not be supported and be receiving essential teaching and learning opportunities.

Mainstream classrooms must adopt new teaching pedagogies that facilitate to all diverse

student needs and abilities. With the use of strategies, pedagogies, collaboration with

stakeholders and ASD and special needs learners will have a sense of inclusion in the

inclusive educational setting.

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