Promising practices

Issue: Volume 95, Number 10

Posted: 7 June 2016
Reference #: 1H9d2G

A new resource for teachers shines light on a range of practical ideas for helping children with autism spectrum disorder.

A new book aims to help teachers support students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at all levels of the education system.

Autism Spectrum Disorder in Aotearoa New Zealand: Promising practices and interesting issues was edited by Jill Bevan-Brown and Vijaya Dharan and published by NZCER Press earlier this year.

Ministry of Education staff members Anna Christie, Dervla Hayes, Heather Polson, and Sharyn Gousmett each contributed chapters to the book as part of their postgraduate studies.

All four were studying for their specialist teaching diploma between 2011 and 2014. This course was a joint venture between Canterbury University and Massey University Albany.

Autism-related assignments they wrote were developed into respective chapters for the book.

Each focuses on a resource they were to develop on an evidence-based practice, or a discussion on issues around an evidence-based practice.

The book is not a collection of academic articles, but rather a practical resource based on evidence and experiences of the students during their specialist course.

The hope is that the authors’ experiences of interventions and challenging issues will motivate other teaching professionals to think outside the box, and give new intervention ideas a try, to meet the needs of children and young people with ASD.

Heather Polson wrote about working in early childhood education in chapter three: Adapting Makaton Signing for Samoan Children.

Makaton is a signing system especially designed to help children and adults with learning difficulties better understand verbal communication, and develop their own communication skills.

Heather worked closely alongside a teacher and students in a Samoan language learning nest to develop four small books for Samoan children in the early childhood education sector.

Each of the books related to an important element of Samoan society: culture, family, church and school.

“Looking at how a signing system such as Makaton can be used with children with autism was an interesting piece of research,” she says.

“We are encouraged from the literature that for some children with autism, Makaton signing is totally appropriate to use.”

Other chapters explore specific strategies including video modelling, social scripts and colourful semantics among others.

The book is set out in two parts. The first focuses on a variety of interventions that people have used and adapted for their particular teaching circumstances.

The second part is a discussion of the issues that need to be taken into consideration when working with children with ASD. These encompass the role of culture in the diagnosis,
treatment and education of children with autism, the use of narrative and sensory therapies and using the Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope (PATH) process.

Heather says the book would be valuable for teachers who might be looking for ways forward with children that have ASD and a range of teaching strategies and approaches to support them.

“It would throw some light on ways to adapt the available programmes to fit the student and their particular circumstances,” she says.

“Working on this project made us all realise what a lot of teamwork goes into publishing something like a book. The scale of the teamwork and collaboration was amazing.”

Find more information about the book by visiting the NZCER website(external link)

BY New Zealand Qualifications Authority

Posted: 12:31 pm, 7 June 2016

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