Professor Vicki Bitsika, Director for the national Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder (CASD) at Bond University urges Australians to consider the benefits of including children on the autism spectrum in mainstream classrooms. She noted that too often these children are seen as a burden on, rather than an asset to the school environment,
“I urge people to consider what will we be taking away from the mainstream school environment by withdrawing these children?” Professor Bitsika said.
“They are intelligent, quirky, loyal, keen to do the right thing and they think outside the box. Quite frankly, our school environment would be poorer without them.
“We should be looking at how we can upskill our teachers – who are committed and loyal to children with autism and different abilities – so the time they are spending with them is more effective.
“Let’s talk about the gaps in teacher training – and how we can fill these gaps with skills, knowledge and new learnings – rather than focus on the consumption of teaching resources from children on the autism spectrum.
“We also need to consider what impact removing these children from mainstream education will have on them, in terms of their capacity to make a difference to their community and society.
The CASD, based at Bond University on the Gold Coast, is currently conducting an international study, in collaboration with researchers in the UK, US and Europe, into the benefits and strengths that arise through having autism.
Professor Bitsika said the research asks parents of children with ASD about the capabilities of their children, rather than focusing on the problems and issues.
“The research so far is showing us children on the spectrum display a very large pool of talents spanning science, physics, medicine and art,” Professor Bitsika said.
“Our aim is to collect robust, international data that we can use to inform schools, universities and organisations who educate children on the autism spectrum about how to advance their amazing talents, as well as how they can compensate for the social skills and difficulties that these children have.”
“The research finding will also be used to educate organisations who might employ people with autism, now and in the future, about the incredible benefits that people with autism can bring to their workplace and their communities.”
Professor Bitsika is keen to hear from the families of children with autism to participate in her questionnaire-based research. Interested families should email the Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder at Bond University on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07 5595 1596.
(Source: Bond University)