From Policy to Practice Supporting Students with Diverse Needs in Thailand: Critical Issues and Implications

By Opartkiattikul, Watinee; Arthur-Kelly, Michael et al. | International Journal of Whole Schooling, September 2014 | Go to article overview

From Policy to Practice Supporting Students with Diverse Needs in Thailand: Critical Issues and Implications


Opartkiattikul, Watinee, Arthur-Kelly, Michael, Dempsey, Ian, International Journal of Whole Schooling


Introduction

'Every morning when I wake up, I can't stop thinking what problems I will face with him today in my classroom' said Miss Siree, a Thai general classroom teacher. The problems that she mentioned relate to her student, Somchai, a 5 year old boy. He often makes loud noises during class when he fails to get what he wants, he walks around the classroom when he has to do deskwork and he easily gets angry. Miss Siree has tried to be patient and has talked with Somchai when he displayed these behaviors. However, her approach has had no positive effect and so she has chosen to ignore the behavior and allow Somchai to continue his disruptions. Even though her school recently conducted a screening test for disability, Somchai remained unidentified with any special needs. Although Miss Siree has discussed the issue with his parents and suggested they take him to see a doctor for specialist advice, his parents are unwilling to do this.

This teacher's experience is just one example of the current situation in many Thai classrooms that are attempting to meet the diverse needs of young school students. In this paper, we highlight issues of importance for both Thai teachers and their colleagues in other countries who are seeking to support student engagement and maximize their learning outcomes (Dempsey & Arthur-Kelly, 2007).

In Thailand and in many other countries, if teachers are unable to manage behavior effectively, school behavior problems in some form represent a pressing issue that can lead to chronic difficulties (Raver & Knitzer, 2002). Behavior problems negatively affect students' academic achievement (Mattison, Hooper, & Glassberg, 2002; Nelson, Benner, Lane, & Smith, 2004; Westling, 2010), lead to social problems (Babinski, Hartsough, & Lambert, 1999; Barkley, Fischer, Smallish, & Fletcher, 2004), and in some instances may result in the abandonment of formal education (Zima et al., 2000). Therefore, it is important for schools and teachers to assist those individuals with behavior problems who are at risk, in the hope that student involvement in learning and the outcomes achieved by all students in schools will be enhanced.

In the past, aversive approaches (Crone & Horner, 2003; Horner, Carr, Strain, Todd, & Reed, 2002) such as punishment, detention and suspension were widely used to deal with behavior problems in many contexts, including Thailand. Although the use of punishment may discontinue the problem behavior for a while, the behavior tends to reappear and sometimes escalates (Gershoff, 2008; Mayer, 1995). Some kinds of punishment, including many corporal punishments such as caning students, have been eliminated in many developed countries (Gary, 2001; Gershoff, 2008). In its place, a range of alternative approaches to corporal punishment have been developed such as assertive discipline (Canter & Canter, 1992) and cognitive-behavioral modification (Finch, Nelson, & Ott, 1993). However, Positive Behavior Support (PBS) is one of the most promising of these approaches. PBS has been introduced as an alternative approach to prevent and reduce behavior problems in schools (Dunlap et al., 2000). This approach focuses on school-wide preventative strategies that are skill building, achieved by manipulating consequences and redesigning environments (Chitiyo & Wheeler, 2009). The central advantage of PBS is that it focuses on all students. As well, it uses multiple and flexible strategies with each student and schools to ensure a contextual and cultural fit (Sugai et al., 1999). For students who need specific support in behavior, PBS includes a systematic treatment approach called Functional Behavior Assessement (FBA) to develop a specific behavior intervention plan (BIP) that focuses on addressing the purpose of the behavior problems and replacing them with more socially and developmentally appropriate alternatives (Arthur-Kelly, 2006). …

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