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By Way2k Way2k
Way2k 5 Oct 2012
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Autism disorder in School kids
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On World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, Karen Guldberg, director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research, School of Education, University of Birmingham, UK, tells Tirna Ray, why we need to stop seeing autism as a disorder, As far as formal education is concerned, what is the concern vis-a-vis autism in India? There are three key concerns to be addressed in India. These include the need to raise awareness, offer appropriate schooling, curriculum and interventions and offer a range of training courses for professionals and parents. It is important to increase awareness among paediatricians to enable more accurate diagnosis. Without a diagnosis, it is difficult for individuals with autism to get the right support.

Autism disorder in School kids

What about teacher-training in India?
It is vital that teachers have opportunities to increase their knowledge about autism and about special educational needs in general. This requires short awareness courses as well as more in-depth professional development courses. In England, for example, my team and I at the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) are working with the Autism Education Trust, Oxford shire County Council and a group of providers and stakeholders across the country to develop three levels of training to be delivered to the education workforce across England.

This three-tier training programme includes basic awareness training at the first level so that teachers can develop their knowledge and understanding of autism. At the second level, the training focuses on giving more practical advice and strategies to those who work directly with pupils with autism. At the third level, practitioners are offered more in-depth knowledge and practical strategies. This level is targeted at those staff who may wish to pursue a training role. Similar models to this, with training materials that are adapted to the Indian context could be beneficial. In addition, it is vital to include training on special educational needs as part of the teacher-training curriculum and at Master's level professional development qualifications.

What are the new developments in technological teaching aids?
Most children with autism find computers and technology safe, motivating and engaging. There are an increasing number of state-of-the-art technologies being developed for children with autism all over the world, including in India. These range from software programmes for interactive whiteboards, PCs and laptops to iPads, virtual reality environments and robotics.

What kind of collaboration are you looking for in India?
The charity Hope and Compassion have set up an exchange for six lecturers from Khalsa College of Education, Amritsar. We are also planning to work closely with the college to develop qualifications in special educational needs. In addition, Springdale School in Amritsar will be funding two of their teachers to undertake a Master's qualification through distance learning at the University of Birmingham.

What is the biggest challenge globally?
One of the important challenges we face globally is that we need to learn to stop seeing autism as a disorder. People with autism have strengths and there is so much positivity to celebrate, even though life can, of course, be difficult, for the person and also for parents and the wider family. That said, it is often prejudices and lack of knowledge that makes life most difficult. The challenge lies in ensuring our societies become better able to celebrate differences.

Courtesy: Times of India

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