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 the institutions lack the knowledge, awareness, and understanding of matters related to the condition.
They fail to understand the kind of support that students with autism require and the best methods to address their needs. The autism spectrum is described as a condition that interferes with the communication ability of the individuals 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 due to a lack of paraprofessionals. The fact that teachers are usually overloaded complicates the matter even more. 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 the education provided in mainstream schools.
Most of the reasons revolve around the difficulties autistic students experience in communication, social interaction, and their limited interests. They often experience challenges when carrying out their academic tasks, interacting with other students, performing emergency events, communicating, and doing after-school tasks.
Challenges of Teaching Autistic Students
There are many challenges, both educational and social, experienced by teachers, when teaching students with autism. The first major challenge is that teachers lack adequate knowledge and the understanding required to handle autistic students.
For example, there are some strategies that may be of help to the students, such as introducing sloping writing boards, but most teachers ignore them. These are simple strategies known to assist students with autism, but most schools do not concentrate on them.
The second social challenge encountered by teachers when teaching students with autism is a failure by schools to include them in their schools. Although the Saudi Arabia government has enacted policies that require students with autism to be included in mainstream schools, this has not been fully achieved. Schools have been experiencing difficulties in their attempts to integrate autistic students into their programs.
Some of them have been rejecting students contrary to the expectations of the parents who work hard in order for their children to get specialized care in the schools. For the students to succeed in mainstream schools, it is important for the schools to ensure that they use all possible mechanisms in order to assist them alongside involving their parents.
The third 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 them to behave like normal students, but this does not help them.
Moreover, the general lack of support that autistic students are supposed to be offered by schools poses a challenge to the teachers who teach them. 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 of them attempt to look for the right schools to enroll their children, they are exposed to 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 one is the enactment of laws that take care of people with different conditions, among them autism.
For instance, 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 others. In addition, the legislation has sections that explain disabilities, the intervention mechanisms, and how assessments are supposed to be conducted in order to determine students who require special services.
The second government support is the provision of regulations that allow individuals with various conditions to access educational services freely, assisted by public agencies. The government directs the agencies to help students with autism and other conditions address their needs. 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 an equal education.
New Methods and Practices for Teaching Students with Autism
Academic Assistance for Students with Autism
When students with autism fail to get fully involved in the activities that take place in the classrooms, they lose most of the content taught by teachers. In addition, motivating them to engage 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.
There are various circumstances that prevent them from following the procedures carried out in the classroom. This often causes them to perform poorly. Some of them require constant monitoring to enable them to follow class procedures, while others need 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. During such discussions, they experience challenges when interacting with their colleagues.
Parents and society should, therefore, play an important role in assisting them to overcome the socialization problems they face. They can assist by allowing them to do familiar activities they enjoy and ones they feel encouraged to accomplish in group setups.
After that, they may give them a chance to perform the activities with the assistance of adult individuals through one-on-one guidance until they acquire the ability to perform the tasks with ease. Eventually, they may require them to perform the tasks in groups with the necessary assistance in order for them to stop their overreliance on other people for assistance.
Enhancing Communication Skills
Another new approach that teachers may use to address the challenges students with autism face is to teach them communication skills. These students lack the desire to start conversations and involve themselves in interactions with their colleagues. In such situations, the services offered by paraprofessionals are crucial in order to deal with passivity among the students and show them the importance of interacting with others.
One-on-one assistance helps them to develop communication skills and eliminate the passivity that characterizes them. This increases their capacity to interact with other people, including teachers and their colleagues. In addition, communication skills enable them to engage and participate in different activities like other students.
Implementing Behavioral Interventions
One-on-one assistance for students with autism is critical in behavior interventions, the teaching of new responses, and increasing or limiting existing behaviors. For instance, they 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. This 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 a new behavior by compelling students with autism to follow it. Paraprofessionals first assist them in exercising it through physical prompts until they gain the skills to perform the activities with assistance.
Teachers then gradually withdraw the physical help offered by substituting it with verbal prompts, which involve minimal physical prompting. This is done until students acquire the ability to perform the tasks on their own.