This essay delves into the critical question of determining the most conducive educational environment for students with autism, specifically weighing the merits of specialized schools against mainstream settings with general education students.
To contextualize this inquiry, a personal perspective is drawn from the experiences of a shadow teacher working with a student in a mainstream school in Singapore. The student’s challenges and difficulties in a mainstream context are explored, and this helps to emphasise the crucial role of a shadow teacher and the potential consequences in the absence of such support.
This section also draws from evaluations of the general mainstream environment for students with autism, utilising anecdotal and scientific evidence to underpin the struggles students with autism commonly experience.
The second section shifts focus to the specific needs of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It discusses the components of an ideal setting, encompassing visual stimuli, structured routines, smooth transitions, smaller class sizes, and skill assessment methodologies.
Drawing from successful models of specialized schools, the essay evaluates the efficacy of these strategies and attempts to prioritize their importance.
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The third and final section addresses the broader question of societal progress in meeting the needs of students with ASD. Acknowledging the potential limitations of providing specialized environments for all, it explores the public’s readiness and attitudes while referencing a LIEN foundation survey. Stakeholders, including parents and teachers, are discussed on top of the disparities in Special Education Needs (SEN) support in mainstream schools.
Additionally, successful mainstream programmes for students with ASD are discussed in consideration of the school’s environments and teacher attitudes. The essay further explores what mainstream schools and governments can do to enhance support for students with ASD, referencing articles from the National Institute of Education (NIE) including literature from global contexts to take a broad view of possible strategies in consideration of the current educational environments for students.
In conclusion, the essay synthesizes the discussions and evaluations presented to answer the main question: What is the best educational environment for students with autism? Is it a specialized school or a mainstream setting with general education students? By balancing the needs of students with ASD, the capabilities of specialized schools, and the potential progress of mainstream education, the essay aims to provide a comprehensive exploration of this complex and nuanced issue.
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