What Are The Characteristics And Challenges Of Parent Professional Collaboration For Education Of Children With Autism In Mainstream Primary School?
The aim of this case study research was to explore the dynamics of parent professional collaboration for education of children with autism in a mainstream primary school. Effective partnership between school and parents is gaining currency in the legal documents concerning inclusion of children with special educational needs. Partnership with parents of children with autism is especially vital considering the core difficulties of children with autism in communication and socialization. Parent-professional collaboration can contribute tremendously in increasing the effectiveness of any educational program for children with autism. Moreover lack of collaboration between parents and professionals may cause a delay in achieving developmental progress in children with autism. This research was conducted in a special autism unit within a mainstream primary school in London. The participants of the study were a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), 5 teachers, 5 teaching assistants (TAs) and 5 parents of children from the autism unit within a mainstream primary school. The use of questionnaires, observation and interviews aided in ‘data- triangulation’ that enhanced the validity of the study. The findings of the study were grouped under three core themes namely autism, inclusive education and parent-professional collaboration. Firstly, the findings indicate that the autism unit within mainstream school supports inclusion of a very low percentage of children with autism in the mainstream school. It was clear that those children with mild behavioral and learning difficulties had a greater possibility of being included in the mainstream.
Secondly, the findings suggest that there exists a good level of communication and co-operation between the professionals and parents of children in the Key Stage 1 of the autism unit. However the level of contact with parents of Key stage 2 was poor. The reasons behind poor interaction between school and parents of the key stage two were not very clear. Finally, the study revealed that TAs appear to be excluded from the process of collaboration with parents. The TAs were not equally included in the process of collaboration and therefore shared different views about parents as compared with teachers. Overall, the results of the study indicate that there is a need to generate and reinforce holistic collaboration between parents and professionals, among professionals and between special autism unit and mainstream school for mainstreaming children with autism. Thus, holistic collaboration can be considered a key aspect in the process of inclusive education.
Having discussed the background and rationale of this research study this section spells out the research questions that directed this research. This study was carried out in an autism unit within a mainstream primary school in London. The research questions presented below were aimed at understanding the nature of parent–professional collaboration for education of children with autism. The special focus of this research was on autism however some sub-questions do not contain the phrase ‘for children with autism’ to keep the length of the questions short.
- What is nature of the difficulties of children with autism and how are they included in the mainstream school?
- To what degree are the views of parents and professionals working in collaboration similar and to what degree are they different?
- What channels do parents and professionals use to communicate for collaboration and what is the quality of communication?
- What strengths and problems are perceived by teachers and parents in the process of collaboration?
- What suggestions do teachers and parents propose to improve the partnership?
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