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Children and Adolescents with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Background and aims

Children and adolescents with Autistic Spectrum Disorders present a challenge to the current education system due to the pronounced heterogeneity of their possible particularities with regard to learning and behaviour.

The variety of (pre-)school provisional sites that currently provide support (ranging from special needs pre-schools and schools to special schools for children with behavioural problems, integrative primary and secondary schools and high schools) indicates, on the one hand side, the sheer complexity of this subject and, on the other hand side, the need for action with regards to clarifying adequate forms, means of approach and sites for (pre-)school provisions.

Questions

The following research project investigates this thematic complex using the following three key aspects:

  • The assessment and evaluation of the current education and support situation of children and adolescents with Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the context of preschools and schools in the canton of Zurich forms the first key aspect of this research project. In addition to collecting current education-related data with regard to the project's target group, the analysis of current provisions and concepts will also be of prime interest.
  • Based on the results yielded in reference to the current state of the education and support situation of children and adolescents with ASD, attention will be turned to the target situation. A multi-perspective analysis of the established action and development needs will form a key aspect here.
  • The development of practical recommendations for a regional conceptual framework with respect to the education and support of children and adolescents with ASD in pre-schools and schools provides the third key aspect of this research project.

Methods

The starting point was the development of a framework on special needs education for children and young adults with ASS (Eckert & Sempert 2012). Then an online inquiry of remedial teachers (SHP) took place to find out the current practice in special needs education for children and young adults with ASS. Subsequently six focus group interviews with mixed groups (consisting of SHP, other pedagogy experts and parents) took place. The focus of the interviews was the collection of data on success conditions for special needs education and the result validation of the online inquiry.

Results

The written inquiry shows that the current situation in special needs education found a positive echo with two thirds of the interviewed SHP teachers. SHP teachers, working in integrated education, have a tendency to see the current situation in special needs education more critical than SHP teachers who work in special schools or remedial schools. The following aspects are considered beneficial and successful: provision of structured learning environments and autism-specific special needs activities (interaction, communication, interests) as well as the cooperation with the parents. Less successful is the promotion of relations and contacts between peers and the systematic handling of behavioural disorders. The results of the focus group interviews reaffirm these findings. From the parent's perspective as well as from those of the different professional groups a professionalization of the experts and the cooperation with the parents is especially emphasized. A further point of discussion is the special situation of the special needs education of children and young adults with ASS in integrated schools. A large number of statements show that, on the one hand, already many positive experiences could be gained, however on the other hand, there still is a great need for clarification and action.

Consequences in practice

The study results show that the further development of special needs education for children and young adults with ASS in the German-speaking part of Switzerland proves to have a positive impact. At the same time, they point out the existing need for extended autism-specific activities and the required specific professionalization of the involved experts.

Publications

  • Eckert, A. & Sempert, W. (2013). Checkliste zur schulischen Förderung von Kindern und Jugendlichen mit einer Autismus-Spektrum-Störung (ASS). Autismus, 2, 27-30.
  • Eckert, A. & Störch Mehring, S. (2013). Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen (ASS) in der Adoleszenz: Übergänge und Herausforderungen. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 3, S. 24-32.
  • Eckert, A. & Sempert, W. (2012). Kinder und Jugendliche mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen in der Schule - Entwicklung eines Rahmenmodells der schulischen Förderung. Vierteljahresschrift für Heilpädagogik und ihre Nachbardisziplinen, 3, 221-233.
  • Eckert, A. & Störch Mehring, S. (2012). Gelingensbedingungen schulischer Förderung von Kindern und Jugendlichen mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen. Ergebnisse einer Befragung von Eltern und Fachkräften. Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 63, 422-433.

Kontakt

Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

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