Social Interaction and Cooperative Activities: Drawing Plans as a Means of Increasing Engagement for Children with ASD

Article excerpt

Children with ASD in Regular Schools

The inclusion of children with special educational needs into regular schools has resulted in teaching becoming more complex (Florian, 2009). Humphrey (2008), and Jorgensen and Lambert (2012), stated that teachers often encounter challenges in engaging children with ASD within regular classrooms. Moreover, class difficulties seem to stem from the children's social communication and interaction challenges in social learning activities. One of the biggest learning challenges for children with ASD is learning by socio-cultural means (Jordan, 2008), and, as stated by McInerney (2010) concerning children within regular schools, curricular learning activities are often socially based. Meaningful educational experiences, therefore, should consider each learner's potential to achieve within social and cultural contexts (McInerney, 2010). Furthermore, school communities that include all stakeholders in every aspect of school life should be encouraged (McGregor & Forlin, 2005), including children with ASD attending regular schools and their families. These principles align with the eight principles approach to whole schooling as advocated by the Whole Schooling Consortium (e.g., Peterson, 2007).

Kanner (1943) first wrote about the difficulties of Children with ASD, and highlighted their inability to relate to others from birth. Updates to the criteria for Autism Spectrum disorder, according to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental disorders fifth edition (http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx), states that "People with ASD tend to have communication deficits, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age" (p.1). ASD is recognised as a neuro-developmental disorder (Newschaffer, Croen and Daniels et al., 2007).

Social constructivism in learning has been a starting point for a number of interventions in regular education such as self-regulation, peer tutoring, and scaffolding (Mclnerney, 2005). More recent research has focused on student motivation through inquirybased and collaborative learning, high teacher expectation, and supportive pedagogy (Mclnerney, 2005; Jarvela, Volet & Jarvenoja, 2010). There is a dearth of literature that concerns socially based learning, engagement activities for children with ASD and regular schools.

Incidences of social cognitive development strategies in pedagogy and the employment of cooperative learning strategies for inclusion may already occur in classrooms (Johnson, Johnson & Smith, 1998), however, advances found from social cognitive aspects of learning, as indicated by Mclnerney (2005) and Jarvela, Volet and Jarvenoja (2010), might also enable children with ASD to be successful learning community members in regular classrooms. These aspects of learning have yet to be fully recognised in everyday class practice in regular schools in the Asia Pacific region (Peters & Forlin, 2010). Furthermore, there is a dearth of literature from the region relating to children with ASD in regular schools (Peters & Forlin, 2010), and their participation with peers._ In an attempt to bridge this gap, the research presented in this article reports a section of results from the author's study that investigated social communication and interaction for children with ASD in Hong Kong and a model to enhance social communication and interaction, the SCI model was developed.

Social communication

Extant strategies used by teachers in regular schools with children with ASD to improve social interaction, have originated from strategies developed within specialist provision (Jordan, 2008). A review of literature from 2003-2007, conducted by Parsons, Guldberg, MacLeod, Jones, Prunty, & Balfe (2009) on evidence-base practices and children with ASD, found behavioural therapy-based strategies and the acquisition of functional skills for inclusion, focused on language acquisition, adaptive behaviour, and social development models. …