In the modern age it is seen to be increasingly important that schools adopt inclusive education policies which support children, no matter what their individual needs (Department for Education and Skills: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 1999), in being able to attend their local school (Dash, 2006). Undoubtedly, there is still a good deal to be done to implement fully inclusive policies (Office for Standards in Education [Ofsted], 2004), although practitioners and educational establishments are much more aware of their responsibilities with regard to children who have special needs. The catalyst for this was the Every Child Matters initiative which emphasised the need for children to be taught skills which enabled them to remain healthy and safe, to be able to enjoy and achieve, to make an active, positive contribution and to be able to work towards being financially stable in their future lives (Department for Education and Skills [DfES], 2004a).
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This documentation, which culminated with the Children’s Act of 2004, built upon the work of the Warnock Report (1978) and the subsequent Education Acts of 1981 and 1996. These documents provided specific definitions of what it was to have ‘special needs’ and allocated responsibilities to specific bodies within local authorities for the first time. It became apparent that it was essential to provide children, and indeed families, with the skills necessary for them to be able to succeed (Knowles, 2009) which involved the removal of any/all barriers to learning (Booth et al., 2000) through the provision of integrated services (DfES, 2004b). Critical to children being able to participate fully and to experience a degree of success (Mittler, 2000), is practitioners’ of awareness of their approaches towards teaching children and the creation of positive learning environments (Corbett, 2001) which will facilitate equal opportunities for all in their classroom (Department for Education and Skills (DfES): Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), 1999; Disability Discrimination Act, 2001; Disability Act, 2001). Although a good deal of progress has been made, there are still indications are that more needs to be done to facilitate the needs of individual children through personalising the curriculum for those who have special needs, particularly in the areas of literacy and key skills (Ofsted, 2004). Although it is acknowledged that all children, inclusive of those with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), must be afforded the opportunity to attend mainstream schools (Ainscow, 1997), there is a lack of recognition of the difficulties that practitioners face with regard to catering for the diverse needs of all children with whom they are faced in the classroom. This essay aims to highlight the needs and challenges of catering for those with ASD and discuss some of the strategies and approaches that are available for practitioners’ use in the classroom environment.
Autism has been described as a life-long disability which affects development which manifests in children during the first three years of their lives (Ritvo and Freeman,
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