Attitude shift needed to help teachers supporting ASD students

USQ Lecturer Karen Glasby with her son Caleb, who will be speaking at the symposium.
USQ Lecturer Karen Glasby with her son Caleb, who will be speaking at the symposium.

KAREN Glasby is on a mission to change people's attitude about school students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

As a Lecturer in Special Education at USQ with more than 15 years' experience in the classroom, Mrs Glasby knows first-hand the complex challenges teachers face to meet the needs of children with ASD.

Her son Caleb was diagnosed with ASD when he was three and attended supported mainstream schooling throughout most of his schooling life.

According to the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), more than 70 per cent of children on the autism spectrum are educated in mainstream schools in Australia.

Mrs Glasby believes teachers need a broader knowledge and understanding of practices to support students with ASD.

"But awareness and professional training is not enough," she said.

"Unfortunately there is an attitude that the answer is we must fix the kids and make them normal so they can fit into school, but obviously that's neither appropriate nor effective.

"The key is a change of attitude at all levels.

"One thing I tell every pre-service teacher is that not only do you need to equip yourself with many strategies to support the child, but you also need to believe that they deserve the extra effort and that in the long run it will make a positive difference to their life.

"USQ's upcoming symposium encourages teachers to take a strengths-based approach by focusing on what students can do and what they're real talents and abilities are, instead of focusing on what they can't do."    

Springfield's ASD Review CEO Danielle Butcher also has an autistic son, Ben, and agreed that children with ASD often required different approaches to teaching and behavioural management in a class room setting.

"Queensland Education has a policy of full inclusion, so for this policy to be successful children with ASD and their teachers need all the support and they can get," MRs Butcher said.

"Children with ASD are being left in education limbo as often they can't cope with the sensory overload of a mainstream class environment and alternative schooling options are almost non-existent.


Danielle Butcher and her son Ben who has autism spectrum disorder.
Danielle Butcher and her son Ben who has autism spectrum disorder. David Nielsen

"Teachers need the opportunity to develop their skills, time to implement strategies and support from suitably trained and qualified teacher aides  

"We need to rethink how we teach children with Autism, we need to find their strengths and use this as an opportunity to develop a skill set they can use for life."

The symposium, Different Minds - Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder is open to practicing teachers, pre-service teachers, educators, parents, teacher aides and any professional who works with students with ASD in schools, such as principals, guidance officers and therapists.

Participants will hear from experts from across Queensland and learn practical approaches and strategies that can be used to cater for students with ASD.

"There are many benefits for students with ASD who are educated in inclusive classrooms; they feel part of the community, they're making friends and learning academic skills and social values," Mrs Glasby said.

"But teachers need more time and help so they feel adequately supported to put these specific strategies in place within the context of their classroom and school."

Another feature of the symposium will be keynote addresses from teacher Nathan Watts and stable hand Caleb Glasby. The pair will share their experiences living with ASD and the challenges they faced while attending mainstream schooling.

"Nathan and Caleb are proof that young people with ASD can live successful lives and reach their potential if they receive the support to succeed," Mrs Glasby said.

Other presenters include USQ Head of School (Teacher Education and Early Childhood) Professor Stephen Winn, Darling Downs South West Autism Hub Coordinator Anna Moore, Brisbane Catholic Education Senior Education Officer Dr Matt Capp and Positive Partnerships Queensland Team Leader Wendy Hickson.

The Different Minds - Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder symposium will be held at USQ Springfield from 9am- 4:30pm on Saturday, August 26.

Tickets costs $70 and can be purchased here.

Topics:  asd autism spectrum disorder education special education usq springfield