Children with ASD who have more complex needs may find it difficult to cope in this type of setting and may not have the opportunity for appropriate peer role models to encourage development social communication and interaction. Again, such a provision may take out of their community. Schools that specifically cater for children with ASD are available within some LEA’s, with some providing residential provision. There are also some schools of this type belonging to the private sector.
The teaching staff will almost certainly have specialist knowledge and understanding of ASD’s and the school environment will usually revolve around daily routines, structure, visual clues and the acquisition of language, communication and social skills. Unfortunately, due to the small number of such provision, schools may be situated far away from the child’s home, again separating them from their local community (Wing and Potter, 2008). On reflection of the continuum of provision available for the continuum of need reflected by ASD, there is again, no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the optimum learning environment.
To reiterate the view of Ofsted (2006), importance should be placed on high quality service providers. The optimum learning environment for children with ASD should be one which, considers that all children are unique and structures interventions based on individual learning needs, meets their and their families needs and provides them with a sense of happiness and security, whilst challenging and developing their personal and academic progress, where ever it lies on the continuum of provision.
A system of gradual inclusion from special schools to mainstream schools, where there is an appropriate match of aptitude and parents and practitioners are in agreement, is a view represented by the policy and practice of a special school, educating pupils mainly with ASD, observed on a recent visit to the setting. This view asserts that children should first be allowed to achieve in an environment where this is made possible, the special school, in order for them to make educational progress.
The implications of a continuum of provision for children with ASD are quite complex, and like the inclusion debate it’s self, the pendulum swings backwards and forwards. On one side, a continuum of provision provides wider choices for parents and children and a greater likelihood of satisfaction (Audit Commission, 2002), but may result in inconsistent practice and a lack of cohesive multi agency working.
With the drive towards including as many children as possible into mainstream schools, comes the challenge of adequately providing for increasingly more complex and diverse needs of all children, and according to Paton (2008) teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to support children with special needs in mainstream primary schools with special schools sometimes being seen as standing outside of inclusion rather than being part of it.
With the closure of many special schools, a ‘u-turn’ in inclusion policy, to provide more specialist provision, could be expensive, but no more expensive than continued investment in the current commitment. Finally, a reversal in government policy would also imply admission of failings in the resolute pursuance of the ideal of inclusion over the past three decades. To conclude, this essay has examined how the individual learning needs of young children are reflected in today’s education system, the policy and legislation that has lead the way to current practice, and the debate surrounding inclusion.
It has also discussed the continuum of needs and provision specifically relating to children affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder, discussing the merits and disadvantages of provision available, and has critically reflected on the learning environment that would best meet the needs of this group. It has reflected on the implications of proving for individual learning needs within the continuum of provision, for practitioners and schools and also for current and future policy and practice.
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EY 560 – How are the individual learning needs of young children reflected in the range of educational provision? Taking as an example a particular area of need, discuss the merits and disadvantages of different educational provision, and critically reflect on the learning environment that would best meet the needs of this group.