Introduction to Autism among Students in Saudi Arabia
Students who suffer from autism in Saudi Arabia are secluded from the mainstream learning institutions because teachers and staff members in schools lack the knowledge, awareness and understanding of matters related to the condition. They do not understand the kind of support that students with autism require and the best methods of addressing their needs. Autism spectrum is described as a condition that interferes with the communication ability of the victims and also alters their capacity to socialize with other people. In most cases, it manifests itself throughout their lives. In addition, it gives rise to repetitive behaviors and limits the interests of the individuals. Public schools in Saudi Arabia still grapple with the challenge of including autistic students in their schools since there are no paraprofessional roles. The fact that teachers are usually overloaded complicates the matter. However, private schools have been helpful through their provision of individualized care to students who suffer from autism.
Reasons why Students with Autism need Assistance
There are many reasons why it is important to provide one-on-one assistance to students who suffer from autism, one of them being to ensure that they get the benefits associated with education provided in mainstream schools. Most of the reasons revolve around difficulties the students experience in communication, social interaction and their limited interests. They often experience challenges in carrying out their academic tasks, social interaction, emergency events, communication and after-school tasks.
Challenges of Teaching Autistic Students
There are many challenges, both educational and social experienced when teaching students with autism. One of the main challenges is that teachers do not have adequate knowledge and the understanding required to handle autistic students. For example, some strategies can help the students such as introducing sloping writing boards, but they are ignored by most teachers. These are simple things that should be done to assist students with autism but most schools do not give them preference.
Another social challenge that is encountered when teaching students with autism is that although the Saudi Arabia government has enacted policies that require students with autism to be included in mainstream schools, this has not been affected appropriately. Schools have been experiencing difficulties in their attempts to integrate autistic students into their schools. Some of them have been rejecting students contrary to the expectations of the parents who work hard for their children to get specialized care in the schools. For students who suffer from autism to succeed in mainstream schools, the schools need to ensure that they exploit all possible avenues to assist them alongside involving their parents.
The challenge is that teachers do not take cognizance of the fact that autistic students exhibit atypical development. They therefore make a comparison between their behavior and that of other students who do not suffer from the condition. Some of the teachers attempt to force students who suffer from autism to behave like normal students.
Moreover, the general lack of support that autistic students are supposed to be offered by schools poses a challenge in teaching them. Their Parents seek the appropriate education for them with little or no assistance and in most cases they deal with the consequences of autism on their own. This leaves them physically and emotionally drained due to the demanding nature of the condition. When some parents attempt to look for the right schools to take their autistic children to, they are exposed to so many bureaucratic procedures that discourage them.
In a bid to support the education of students with autism, the government of Saudi Arabia has taken various measures. The first measure is that the government has instituted laws to take care of people with different conditions among them autism. For example, legislation on disability was enacted in 1987. This legislation is comprised of vital provisions that guarantee individuals who suffer from various conditions the rights enjoyed by the rest who do not suffer from such conditions. In addition, the legislation has sections that explain disabilities, the intervention mechanisms and how assessments should be conducted to determine students who should be accorded special services.
The second support that the government has been offering is the provision of regulations that allow individuals with various conditions to access educational services freely through the assistance of public agencies. The government directs the agencies to help students with autism and other conditions in the different areas where they need assistance. The policies that have been put in place by the government of Saudi Arabia are aimed at ensuring that all students regardless of their conditions get equal education.
New Methods and Practices for Teaching Students with Autism
Academic Assistance for Students with Autism
When students with autism fail to be fully involved in the activities that take place in the classrooms, they lose most of what is taught. In addition, motivating them to engage themselves in various activities or to show responsiveness to their surroundings is difficult. As a result, paraprofessional assistance that involves meticulous activity planning, systematic utilization of materials and modification of the surroundings has a great influence on the academic performance of students with autism. Various circumstances prevent them from following the procedures carried out in the classroom and completing assigned tasks. This often causes them to perform poorly. Some of them require constant monitoring for them to follow class procedures while others need only occasional assistance. Teachers use prompting to enhance the performance of students until they acquire the required skills and gain the ability to perform tasks without assistance.
Assistance from Parents and the Society
The likelihood of Students who suffer from autism to read facial expressions wrongly, and exhibit problems in their interactions with other people is usually high. It is therefore important to assist them in circumstances where social interaction is necessary like discussion groups where they experience challenges when interacting with their colleagues. In such scenarios, parents and the society should play an important role in assisting them to overcome the socialization problems they face. Parents and the society can assist by allowing them to start doing familiar activities that they enjoy and ones they feel encouraged to accomplish in group set ups. After that, they may be given a chance to perform the activities with adult individuals through one-on-one guidance until they can perform the tasks with ease. Eventually, they are required to perform the tasks in group sets with the necessary assistance for them to stop relying on other people for assistance.
Enhancing Communication Skills
Another new approach of addressing the challenges faced by students who suffer from autism is teaching them communication skills. These students lack the desire to start conversations and involve themselves in interactions with their colleagues. In such situations, the services of paraprofessionals are crucial to deal with the passivity and show them the importance of interacting with others. One-on-one assistance for students with autism helps in developing their communication skills and eliminating the passivity that characterizes them. This increases their capacity to interact with other people including teachers and their colleagues. Communication skills enable them to engage and participate in activities that other students are involved in.
Implementing Behavioral Interventions
One-on-one assistance for students with autism is critical in behavior interventions, teaching of new responses and increasing or limiting prevailing behaviors. For instance, students who suffer from autism may understand that some of their behaviors draw attention or compel people to let them stay alone. Among the interventions that may be applied to eliminate the prevalence of undesirable conduct that is sometimes reinforced through acquiring desirable impacts is extinction. Extinction reduces behaviors that have been in the past followed by positive reinforcements by halting the following positive activities. The behaviors are high as the intervention starts but they reduce slowly with time.
One-on-one assistance is also associated with the establishment of new ways of behaving by compelling students with autism to follow the behavior. Paraprofessionals first assist them to exercise the behavior through physical prompts until they gain the skills of performing the activities with assistance from the paraprofessionals. Teachers then step by step eliminate the physical help offered by substituting it with verbal prompts which involve minimal physical prompting. This is done until the time students acquire the ability to perform the tasks on their own.