Children with autism attending preschool facilities: The experiences and perceptions of staff
Increasing numbers of children are being identified from three years onwards as having autistic spectrum disorders. The majority of parents aspire for their child to attend mainstream education facilities and many already do so. However there is limited knowledge about the needs of preschool personnel if they are to support the inclusion of children with autistic spectrum disorders. In particular, what are their experiences of taking such children, what supports are available to them and what help do they require?
This survey of 56 staff working in 38 preschools of various types in the Greater Belfast area found that a sizeable number had the experience of taking with children with autistic spectrum disorders and staff do receive some advice and support from a range of professionals. Nearly all were committed to enrolling such children in the future but they felt that a lack of staffing could preclude this. A majority of staff felt they have had inadequate or no training to equip them to meet the children’s particular needs and they report a lack of knowledge and skills to help these children.
The implications of these results are discussed in terms of the specific skills required by staff to manage these children and promote their learning; the professional support required and the contribution this could make to the preschool and the training requirements of staff working on these setting in either a paid or voluntary capacity.