๐—”๐—ฐ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ, ๐—”๐˜„๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€, ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—œ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—น๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป
Nonkululeko Maringa
June 20, 2024

Imagine you are a teacher at a mainstream school. There is a learner in your class who was diagnosed a few weeks ago with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Theย learnerโ€™sย parents inform you that he has high-functioning autism, meaning that he does not need as much support as other learners with ASD.

Your knowledge about ASD is minimal. You know that ASD is a spectrum disorder.ย Thisย means that the symptoms are different from person to person. Some people might have very noticeable symptoms, othersย might not. You also know that people with ASD act in ways that are unusual, such as repetitive behaviors like rocking and hand-flapping. Another important thing that you know is that people with ASD get upset when a routine is changed, even slightly, and that they areย extremely sensitiveย to noise. His mother tells you that another symptom of ASD is that they can talk in aย flatย robotic voice and avoid eye contact.

After becoming aware of theย learnerโ€™sย diagnosis, you feelย thatย you understand the learnerย a little bitย better.ย You now know why he will put his hands over his ears when the school bell rings. You also understand why the learner was in tears when you had to leave early one day to attend a meeting at another school. You feel ashamed because you labeled the learner as naughty.ย  You understand that the learner is not naughty butย that heย has different needs.

By accepting the learner andย byย becoming aware of the unique needs of the learner, you have taken the first step towards creating an inclusive environment. You have also taken a step in recognising that diversity is more than cultural differences. Diversity also refers to the variety of learning needs of learners with specific disabilities (Walton & Engelbrecht, 2022). ย You want to be a change agent within the field of education and decide that youย are going toย support this learner to reach his full potential. You believe that your positive attitude will support you in finding ways to help this learner. Walton and Engelbrecht (2022)ย mentiones that a positive attitude towards learners with barriers toย learning,ย is anย importantย tool for all teachers.

Sefotho (2024) mentions thatย teachers’ย attitudes constitute theย biggestย barrier to managing a truly diverse classroom and creating an environment conducive to the realisation of inclusive education. As a teacher, you have shownย that you haveย a positive attitude towards the learner with ASD.ย Thisย means that you have one less barrier to overcome.

Ameen (2024) advocates that teachers must not view learners with ASD asย unintelligent,ย and must accept that all learners have the right to support, irrespective of being neurodiverse or not. Clasquin-Johnson (2024) notes that aย teacher,ย who truly embracesย diversity,ย is a teacher who teaches from the head, hands, and heart. The head implies that the teacher understands the content, the hands refer to the teacher using different strategies to facilitate learningย andย the heart means that the teacher is passionate about supporting learners to reach their full potential. The question isย then, what kind of teacher do you want to be? Do you want to be a teacher who only teaches content? Or do you want to be a teacherย who hasย a passion for teaching?

Teachers who recognise the importance of establishing an inclusive classroom will always search for strategies that can support them in achieving this goal. The following links provide useful information for teachers regarding ASD and how to support these unique learners. Please visit the following websites for more information regarding ASD:

As you embark on your journey to becoming a teacher who teaches from the head, hands and heart, remember that your acceptance and awareness of ASD can make a world of difference in these learnersโ€™ lives.

Reference List:

Ameen, N. (2024). ‘GDE programs and activities to promote Autism Awareness and Acceptance’, Autism Awareness and Acceptance Seminar, UNISA, 23 April 2024.

Clasquin-Johnson, M. (2024). โ€˜UNISAโ€™s Teaching and Learning, Community Engagement and Research on Autismโ€™ Autism Awareness and Acceptance Seminar, UNISA, 23 April 2024.

Sefotho, M.M. (2024). โ€˜Autism Awareness and Support in Higher Educationโ€™, Autism Awareness and Acceptance Seminar, UNISA, 23 April 2024.

Walton, E. & Engelbrecht, P. (2022). Inclusive education in South Africa: path dependencies and emergences. International Journal of Inclusive Education, pp. 1-19. Available at: Full article: Inclusive education in South Africa: path dependencies and emergences (tandfonline.com) [accessed 24 April 2024].

๐—”๐˜‚๐˜๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฟ: ๐——๐—ฟ ๐—ง๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฒฬ ๐—ฉ๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€

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