High functioning autism spectrum disorder:  A challenge to secondary school educators and the students with the condition

Year: 2012

Author: Hay, Ian, Winn, Stephen

Type of paper: Refereed paper


Across the Australian schooling sector, students with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (HFASD) can represent a challenge to educators and the nature of that challenge is the focus of this study. The setting for this research is second education with the teachers and the students supported through additional services based within an integrated special education service model. In this study students were identified as HFASD if they had a diagnosis of ASD given by an independent medical officer and the students were functioning in the regular classroom and achieving at, or near, grade level on classroom based or standardised tests of achievement. This study investigated the educational issues associated with students with HFASD using both teacher (N = 81) and students with HFASD (N=32) surveys. These surveys were developed after extensive focus group activities with the teachers and the students identified with ASD, and were framed in the language provided by the participants. The teacher survey contained 27 statement items and the student survey contained 34 items. Both instruments used a 5 point Likert scale. The two main themes in the mainstream teachers' responses were: (i) the less predictable and at times inflexible social behaviour of the students; and (ii) the level of additional in-class attention required to effectively teach the students in a group context. The two main themes from the students with HFASD were: (i) the students' desire for social relationships and friendships; and (ii) their concerns about their learning environment. The educational implications of these findings are discussed in relation to theory and practice.