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Developing a conceptual framework which supports teachers of learners diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and high functioning autism
De Jager, Petronella Susanna
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Recent research into pedagogical practices regarding Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) learners has been developing and transforming at a significant rate. However, there has been a dearth of empirical research into how teachers identify and respond appropriately to the basic personality traits of Autistic Spectrum/High Functioning Autistic (AS/HFA) learners. This thesis addresses this specific gap in the research field by undertaking an intensely empirical examination of three AS/HFA learners in transition from Grade 3 to Grade 4 who experience behavioural adaptation challenges. The investigation was conducted in the Western Cape, South Africa, at three schools: one government mainstream and two private schools. Three Grade 3 teachers and three Grade 4 teachers were involved in the project. One facilitator, a class assistant, a teacher for Learners with Special Eductional Needs (LSEN) and an educational psychologist took part. Three learners, aged 9 years transitioning from Grade 3 to Grade 4, were observed: all three were clinically diagnosed as AS/HFA. Of the learners, two were boys and one was a girl. The duration of the project was from August/September 2013 to August/September 2014. A critical interpretive qualitiative case study methodology and purposive sampling were deployed. Non-participant observations, semi-structured interviews and probing techniques suited the nature of this specific investigation. It was necessary to employ these methods to identify the social cognitive and social functioning challenges of these three learners. Analysis of effective pedagogical procedures was used to show by what means the researcher was able to extrapolate Bandura’s principles of environment, personal and behaviour which were developed for typical learners, and apply these principles to atypical learners such as the three AS/HFA subjects under observation in this thesis. Effective pedagogical procedures were analysed in terms of a paradigm of reflective cognition. Such analysis of the detail of classroom procedures allowed the researcher to proceed in an inductive manner; from the specific to the general. Balancing this empirical investigation of specific details, was a generally deductive structure which was based on national and international research in the research area. The latest DSM-V document provided a blue-print which set out the boundaries for this area of study. Before reaching the issue of knowledge that is needed to support teachers confronted by, and too often perplexed by, the inappropriate behaviour of AS/HFA learners in the classroom, it is vital to situate the whole endeavour within the context of Inclusive Education; as reflected in South African policy documents.