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Claim: Evidence in psychology draws upon multiple individuals across disciplines. Research Question: Has psychological research impacted the education of students with ASD? Rationale: Psychology studies the human mind and behaviour, which influence all aspects of life. This means that evidence in psychology provides benefits to all facets of society, as humans are a part of every discipline (Zimbardo, 2004). A perfect example of this is the use of psychological evidence within education. More specifically, the education of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a complex developmental disability which mainly affects communication, social skills and behaviours (Thompson, 2007). This means that students with ASD require teaching strategies specific to their needs (Wilson, 2013).
Many teachers are not well equipped to deal with students who have ASD, and many do not receive specific information about this disability, even though this information exists (Olson, Roberts, & Leko, 2015). Psychological research has found many different strategies that can be implemented to help these students learn, as well as managing challenging classroom behaviours which impact other students (Tincani, Cucchiarra, Thurman, Snyder, & McCarthy, 2013). The evidence from such research has a large impact on education and should therefore be widely available for educators (Tincani et al., 2013; Simpson, 2008). Thus, psychological research has benefitted the education of students with ASD. Analysis and Interpretation: The chosen study was a survey sent to General Practitioners, in which they rated educational strategies for a set of four fictitious patients. The four ‘patients’ consisted of two students with “classic” autism (aged 7 and 10) and two students with high-functioning autism (also aged 7 and 10). The strategies that were listed were: classroom structure (e.g. visual supports, organized environment); academic and cognitive supports (e.g. individualized goals and curricula); social skill supports; challenging behaviour supports (e.g. behaviour assessments and intervention plans); family participation and sensory supports.
The responses for classroom structure indicated statistically significant interaction between age and functioning level. This suggests that classroom structure was needed more as students with “classic” autism got older but was needed less as the higher-functioning students got older. Academic supports showed no significant differences in recommendations relative to age, however there were significant differences in recommendations connected to functioning level. This data suggests that students with “classic autism” are perceived to require additional academic support. Social skill supports were necessary across all 4 cases with no statistically significant difference based on age or functioning level, supporting the notion that this strategy is beneficial for all autistic students, independent of age or level of functioning. The perceived need for challenging behaviour supports showed no statistically significant interaction between age and functioning, or age alone, but had statistically significant differences between levels of functioning. This suggests that participants believed that as students with “classic autism” advance in age, they require greater support for challenging behaviours.
Family participation was considered an important element for the education of children with ASD, independent of age or functioning level, as there were no statistically significant differences between age and functioning levels. The responses to sensory supports indicated no statistically significant differences for age or the age-functioning level interaction, there was, however a statistically significant difference between levels of functioning, suggesting that students with classic and more severe forms of Autism require more intensive support for sensory challenges. Conclusion and Evaluation: From the aforementioned study, it can be concluded that there are a number of strategies available for children with ASD that should be implemented based on the varying needs of such students. Psychological studies such as this one, provide important benefits to education in general, but specifically dealing with the needs of students with ASD in the classroom. This proves that multi-disciplinary nature of psychology, as this study greatly benefits the education industry, as well as whatever disciplines these students enter into in the future. Whilst this evidence provided beneficial insight into the educational strategies necessary for children with ASD, the evidence had a number of limitations.
The first of these limitations was the lack of ecological validity from asking only GPs about their recommendations. These professionals have varying levels of experience with ASD, as outlined in the beginning of the report. When looking for educational recommendations, many patients will seek guidance from a number of professionals with varying knowledge, thus this study may not be the most accurate in terms of real life situations. This ecological validity was also limited by the nature of the survey that was used, which inherently limited the strategies from which participants could recommend. In a real-life situation, many more strategies could be implemented which are specific to the patient. Furthermore, the study was limited geographically by only including respondents from two Midwestern states, thus not accounting for the differences between the opinions in these states and other areas. This could be improved by having a larger sample, specifically including respondents from urban, suburban and rural areas in the US which would allow for a more accurate image of the opinions of practitioners on the most vital teaching strategies for students with ASD. In addition, there are few studies that this can be compared to, thus it would be beneficial for this study to be recreated in order to determine whether the same results would be obtained. Thus, while the study provided beneficial evidence for strategies to teach students with ASD, there are ways this could be improved.
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