Successful integration of children with autism into inclusive classes : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Special and Inclusive Education at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

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This research focused on developing, implementing and evaluating a set of guidelines for key personnel who work with children with autism with the aim of successfully integrating children with autism into inclusive classes. An examination of the international literature indicated that the collaboration of key personnel is the main influence on the scholastic achievement of children with autism. The key personnel identified in the literature include teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, school principals and peer tutors, all of whom contribute to the process of integrating children with autism into inclusive classes. However, in Thailand there is limited information to assist these key personnel in this task. The purpose of the research study was to develop a set of guidelines for assisting children with autism in Thailand and refine them using an iterative process. The guidelines specifically aimed to provide knowledge and strategies to support key personnel to integrate children with autism into regular classes. In order to provide a suitable context, the guidelines were implemented in an inclusive school in Thailand. The three research questions the researcher sought to answer in this study were: i) what strategies should be included in the guidelines to assist key personnel to integrate children with autism into inclusive classrooms? ii) how effective are the guidelines in supporting key personnel to integrate children with autism into inclusive classes? and iii) how effective are the strategies used in the guidelines in developing behaviours that help children with autism to integrate into inclusive classes? A qualitative case study approach was selected to gain an in-depth understanding of the use and effectiveness of the guidelines. Nine children with high functioning autism were chosen for this study: three of kindergarten age, three of primary school age and three of secondary school age. Five key personnel for each child, including teachers, peer tutors, paraprofessionals, parents and school principals were asked to trial the guidelines. The opinion of five selected experienced Thai people involved with children with autism was also sought in order to determine the content validity of the study. The effectiveness of the guidelines was evaluated using triangulation of data including: classroom observations, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The Deming cycle PDCA model was used to organize the process of implementation and development.The booklets for key personnel which contained the guidelines and strategies were structured as follows: information about children with autism, 20 difficulties with associated strategies for helping children with autism and ideas for developing inclusive classrooms. It was found that key personnel were generally satisfied with the suggestions from the guideline booklets, and that using the guidelines helped key personnel to collaborate in helping children with autism integrate into inclusive classes. Also the strategies were effective in helping children with autism develop positive behaviour and attitudes.
Autistic children, Education, Inclusive education, Thailand, Special education