Staff education and training key barriers for students with autism in schools

Australia's first, nationwide analysis of the educational needs of students on the autism spectrum has identified a lack of suitable education and training for staff as a key barrier for providing support for students on the spectrum in schools.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC) surveyed 1,468 participants for the study, from every state in Australia, including educators, autism specialists, parents and students making it the largest study of its kind.

The preliminary findings were presented today at the fourth Asia Pacific Autism Conference, APAC15, currently underway in Brisbane.

Autism CRC Director Education Research Program, Professor Suzanne Carrington said educators face the challenge of meeting the complex needs of children with autism while maintaining an appropriate learning environment for all students.

"Autism CRC research outcomes aim to support teachers by developing interventions that are easy to implement for the teacher and will make a huge difference to a student with autism, but ultimately benefit the whole class," said Professor Carrington.

"We are working collaboratively with teachers and allied health professionals to ensure the most effective outcomes.

"Our evidence-based interventions will ensure that all school staff have an understanding of autism, can provide appropriate support and that the whole school community is autism friendly."

The ASD-ENA is a part of the Autism CRC Education Research Program, Australia's first, national effort incorporating all school systems and set within the real life context of inclusive school environments.

The Research Program aims to provide autism appropriate educational environments and programs that optimise students' social, behavioural and academic success and to equip teachers to manage even the most complex behaviours in the classroom.

"Children on the autism spectrum have a higher rate of exclusion at school because their academic and social needs are not understood or supported," said Professor Carrington.

"We know many children with autism can go on to have successful adult lives, provided autism-specific strategies are implemented to enable the child to access the curriculum and school environments."

Jointly hosted by Autism Queensland and the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders, the APAC15 program features clinicians, educators, researchers, people with ASD, parent and others involved in working with people on the spectrum for three days of expert learning.

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