Children with autism able to thrive in mainstream preschools: Aussie researchers

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-11 14:17:54|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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SYDNEY, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- Children with autism are able to thrive in mainstream preschools just as well as in specialized settings, in new findings that point to the need for kids with disabilities to learn with their peers, according to latest Australian research.

The La Trobe University study, touted as the first of its kind, involved more than 40 children aged between 15 and 32 months over a period of three years in randomly assigned classrooms, tracking improvements in aspects ranging from vocal and social interaction skills to verbal cognition and adaptive behaviors via intervention methods, researchers said in a statement on Sunday.

The findings confirmed that supporting preschoolers with autism in mainstream early childhood settings was achievable, said the university's researcher Dr Kristelle Hudry.

"We found that the overall quality of the learning and teaching environment in the mainstream playrooms was exceptionally high and graded equal when compared to the specialized playrooms," said Hudry.

"This means the extra training and added requirements involved in including children with autism into mainstream classrooms didn't detract from student development or reduce the amount of attention staff gave to typically developing children."

Autism is a developmental disorder that includes difficulties with social interaction and restricted behavior. About one in 200 Australians are affected by autism and most of them are boys, according to health industry figures. The symptoms may be noticeable from the age of two but a firm diagnosis usually cannot be made until a child is three years old.

The latest findings, published in academic journal Autism, showed that it was important for children with a disability to have the opportunity to learn with their peers in regular educational settings, said university researcher Dr Cathy Bent.

"It can also help prevent discrimination and negative social perception towards people on the spectrum, as it gives children without a disability the chance to become more accepting of diversity from an early age," said Bent.

"We aim to start a new study next year with a particular focus on the training and support we provide educators... As a growing number of toddlers are diagnosed with autism, it's becoming increasingly important to provide families with more choice," said Hudry.