Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Special Educators' Knowledge and Training on Autism in Karnataka: A Cross-Sectional Study

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Special Educators' Knowledge and Training on Autism in Karnataka: A Cross-Sectional Study

Article excerpt

Byline: Shivani. Tiwari, Joyce. John

Context: In the wake of increasing prevalence of autism globally, with a substantial change in understanding of the disorder, it is essential to update knowledge of the healthcare professionals involved in the intervention of children with autism. Special educators are important team members in the rehabilitation of children with autism. There are only a few studies addressing knowledge and training of special educators in the rehabilitation of children with autism, particularly in the Indian context. Aim: The present study investigated knowledge and training on autism among special educators in a southern state of India, Karnataka. Settings and Design: A descriptive cross-sectional study design was adopted for this study. Materials and Methods: Data were collected from 47 special educators, who answered questions related to general knowledge, knowledge of educational programming, knowledge about classroom behaviors, and professional development needs regarding autism. Statistical Analysis: Statistical analysis of the data was performed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (version 16). Results: Results of the study indicated that special educators had an overall reduced level of understanding about autism and poor knowledge on educational programming and classroom behaviors in children with autism. Further, their knowledge regarding autism varied with educational qualification and years of work experience. Conclusions: Findings of the study, thus, emphasize the need for increasing awareness by providing knowledge and training to special educators working with children with autism in India.

Introduction

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects a child's perception of the world and how the child learns from his or her experiences. The Autism Society of America [1] defines autism as a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first 3 years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, influencing development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills.

Autism results from a variety of biological causes including genetic, several birth-related, and environmental factors that cause atypical brain development early in the life. Autism does not arise from a single cause; it is instead a complex disorder with a set of core aspects having distinct causes. Children with autism exhibit a range of deficits, primarily in the areas of reciprocal social interaction, communication, and stereotypic repetitive behavior patterns. Many of these kids with autism also present with sensory issues, rigid behavior patterns, hyperactivity, attention, mood, anxiety, and seizures.[2]

While the understanding of autism has evolved over the years, so is the prevalence of the condition. According to a recent report, about 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).[3] In India, the prevalence of ASD was reported to be 0.9/1000 in children between 1 and 10 years of age, in a northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh.[4]

The alarming increase in the prevalence of autism has caused not only an increase in the number of cases of autism but also an increased need for better awareness and understanding of the condition, its assessment, and management among professionals involved in providing services to these children.

Special educators or special education teachers are professionals who work for children with disabilities (including autism) on a day-to-day basis. Children with autism present with unique learning characteristics that differ widely from typical learning children as well as children with other types of disabilities. It is, thus, crucial for special educators to update their knowledge regarding identification and management of children with autism. The present study was therefore aimed to investigate knowledge, training, and needs for educational practices among special educators serving children with autism in India. …

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