Teachers shy away from hyperactivity and autism

14th October 2005 at 01:00
Teachers are happier teaching pupils with acute physical disabilities than those with attention-deficit or autistic spectrum disorders.

Only half the heads and classroom teachers questioned for a TES survey said that autistic pupils should be taught with other children in a mixed-ability classroom.

Fifty-five per cent of heads and 60 per cent of classroom teachers wanted to see children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder taught in mainstream schools.

Kevin Griffiths, head of Frank Wise special school, in Oxfordshire, agrees that children with disorders such as autism often respond better to special school teaching. "Some children, because of their challenging behaviour, actually need a smaller group setting, a smaller school with a family atmosphere," he said.

By contrast, 85 per cent of mainstream heads and 88 per cent of classroom teachers wanted to see children with impaired mobility integrated into mainstream schools. And 79 per cent of heads and 78 per cent of teachers thought that pupils with sight or hearing impairments should be similarly included.

Only 3 per cent of heads and 5 per cent of teachers felt that pupils with dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia would be best educated in special schools.

Brian Lamb, chair of the special educational consortium, said: "Teachers are concerned about disruptive behaviour in the classroom. There's the fear that certain pupils will be unmanageable. With physical disabilities, as long as you've solved the basic access issue, there's no other problem.

"But for all children, you have to have the right resources, or they can become as isolated in the mainstream as in special schools."

Jenny Mosley, a Wiltshire-based behaviour expert, agrees that tackling hyperactive behaviour can be the biggest challenge in a mainstream classroom.

"If one child is distracting or destroying other children's learning it can be devastating," she said. "The children aren't being deliberately difficult. They just need training in social skills."

But Clare Bevington, head of Cottingley integrated primary, in Leeds, insists that all children can flourish in a mainstream school. She said.

"It's about finding the right programme and curriculum to meet every child's needs. Sometimes this will be appropriate in the mainstream classroom. And sometimes it will be appropriate in a different room."

She believes that mainstream schools should take advantage of the skills of staff trained to work in special schools: "We need to recognise and value the expertise of specialists. We need them on-site, permanently. They are the ones who enable inclusion to happen. They are the ones who know how to meet children's needs."

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