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Special education teachers' attitudes toward autistic students in the autism school in the State of Kuwait: a case study.

In this study, the purpose was to examine Kuwaiti special education teachers' attitudes toward autistic students in the Autism School in Kuwait. This research study is divided into two parts: Introduction (the problem statement, the purpose statement, the research questions, definition of terms), and Procedures (using a case study in research, the role of the researcher, data collection procedures, methods for verification, outcome of the study and relation to theory and the literature). The researcher analyzed data from interviews of two special education teachers who work in the Autism School in Kuwait.

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The Autism School was established in 1999 in the State of Kuwait (Kuwait) for children with autism. This school provides the appropriate educational programs for autistic children who depend on individualized learning settings and goals. Teachers try to give children the skills needed so that they can survive in society once they leave the school (KMOE, 2001). Currently, there are twenty boys enrolled in this school. This research study investigates special education teachers' attitudes toward autistic students within the Autism School in Kuwait.

Statement of the Problem

Because of the lack of the research on autism in Kuwait and in particular among school-aged children, this study is of significant importance. The researcher focused on special education teachers who work directly with autistic children in the Autism School in Kuwait. Currently the Kuwaiti universities which prepare future teachers lack courses and curricula to help pre-service and in-service special teachers understand issues related to autism. Teachers, therefore, may be ill-prepared to teach students with autism in Kuwait.

Statement of the Purpose

This research study has three goals: (1) to discover Kuwaiti special education teachers' attitudes toward students with autism, (2) to update and educate Kuwaiti special education teachers with regard to autism, (3) to suggest recommendations for the future. All three purposes of the study are discussed in detail in the following paragraphs.

First, this research study addresses selected special education teachers' attitudes in the Autism School in Kuwait to learn about their opinions towards students with autism.

Second, this research study updates the existing literature concerning students with autism in the field of special education in Kuwait and gives information for all Kuwaiti special education teachers, university faculties, and policy makers in the Kuwait Ministry of Education.

Third, if recommendations of this research study are approved by the Kuwait Ministry of Education, then all Kuwaiti universities will improve their education curricula to include special education programs for in-service and pre-service teachers who plan to work with students with autism. It is the researcher's hope that Kuwait will develop and improve its special education programs regarding autism as a result of this study and its recommendations.

The Grand Tour Question and Sub-questions

In order to answer the statement of the problem, the following open ended questions need to be addressed to teachers in the Autism School:

1. What is your overall feeling toward students with autism in your school?

2. What do you think affects your attitude towards students with autism?

3. What subject or skills do you teach students with autism in the Autism School?

Definitions

The following four terms are used in this research study: (1) the Autism School, (2) attitude, (3) a case study, (4) and students with autism. All terms are defined below.

Kuwait Autism School:

A school for autism was established in 1999 in Kuwait to provide special educational programs for children with autism in an individual learning environment with individual goals that meet their needs. The curriculum in this school is to provide all children with autism with the appropriate skills to help them to become part of society as much as is possible (KMOE, 2001).

Autism:

Autism is a "developmental disorder characterized by abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interests" (Gargiulo, 2003, p.621).

Attitude:

"An attitude is a predisposition to respond in a favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given attitude object" (Oskamp & Schultz, 2005, p.9).

A Case Study:

A case study is "an exploration of a 'bounded system' or a case (or multiple cases) over time through detailed, in-depth data collection involving multiple sources of information rich in context" (Creswell, 1998, p.61).

Procedures

Using a case study in research

The sample of this study will be two special education teachers in the Autism School of Kuwait. The researcher applied case study research to understand Kuwaiti special education teachers' attitudes toward autistic children. The researcher interviewed these teachers individually to ask them research questions to gather data collection. The gathered data from the teachers is coded based upon the teachers' responses.

The interviews with the teachers were very successful because they mentioned some factors such as the role of parents, the environment, and students' ability. The responses given by the teachers further show a need for the development of special education programs, especially in the Autism School in Kuwait.

Role of Researcher

Two interviews, which were carefully control led by the researcher, were conducted of selected teachers at the school. The researcher constructed an interview protocol that included open-ended questions. The researcher phoned the interviewees separately for 30 minutes per call, and the research questions were asked orally, while the researcher recorded the answers in Arabic. The responses were transcribed into English by the researcher. The researcher compared and analyzed the data. Following are the details of the data collection procedures.

Data Collection Procedures

(1) Access and Rapport:

The researcher made a phone call to the director of special education schools in Kuwait explaining the case study and the benefits that the Kuwait Ministry of Education (KMOE) could gain after its completion. Then the researcher made another phone call to the principal of the Autism School in Kuwait to request two special education teachers to volunteer to complete the open-ended questions and participate in the interview.

(2) Interviews:

A telephone interview is appropriate when a researcher is unable to meet with the participants in person (Creswell, 1998). This data collected from two special education teachers in Kuwait via interviews on a long distance phone call to answer open-ended questions was used because the researcher did not have direct access to the individuals. Each interview lasted 30 minutes via telephone.

(3) Saving Data Collection

Data was transcribed by the researcher, who is also the interviewer of this study, by writing all answers from the interviewees directly onto the interview protocol pages. Also, collected data was stored as a backup copy in the researcher's PASS of this case study at the Pennsylvania State University.

Methods for Verification

This procedure consisted of identifying one professor at The Pennsylvania State University who is an expert in Curriculum and Instruction who could establish the validity of open-ended questions. Validity refers to the extent to which an instrument measures what it is supposed to measure (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001; Hallahan & Kauffman, 2000).

The researcher of this qualitative case study analyzed the data based on developing naturalistic generalizations, which means "generalizations that people can [earn from the case either for themselves or for applying it to a population of cases" (Creswell, 1998, p. 154).

Outcome of the Study and Relation to Theory and Literature

The outcome of the study shows that there is a need for improvement in special education programming in Kuwait, especially with regard to autism. Kuwaiti future teachers and current teachers could benefit from both pre-service and in-service education. Since the diagnosis of autism is relatively new in Kuwait, teachers are not fully equipped with how to best teach students with autism.

Interviewee (1), a female Kuwaiti special education teacher with BA degree, states that students with autism need more time and effort from the teacher in order to help them to be a success in the classroom and to develop their self-esteem. She feels children with autism in Kuwait could have greater success if their parents participated more in their education and if they understand their child's needs. In the Autism School in Kuwait, Interviewee (1) feels that all the teachers collaborate to make up for what is lacking in the current curriculum. Teachers use the "TEACCH" program. This teacher, interviewee (1), believes autistic students must be integrated into Kuwaiti society. She feels they need to be given the necessary life skills so that they can interact with the outside world.

Interviewee (2), who has the same credentials as interviewee (1), likes teaching autistic children. She finds her job challenging, yet interesting. She agrees with interviewee (1) in that she notes autistic children require more time and require a variety of teaching methods if they are to be integrated into society. Heward (2006) states that many autistic children can not perceive other people's emotions and have trouble understanding social questions. The curriculum she uses, the "TEACCH" program, allows for a variety of activities so that autistic students do not get bored. Also, she uses a lot of positive reinforcement, repetition, pictures, and symbols in her teaching. Field trips are an essential part of the program. All teachers cooperate to make the program work well. She encounters some difficulties in her job, most notably, disruptive behaviors. Heward (2006) and Garguilo (2003) state that autistic students exhibit more aggressive behavior toward themselves and others. Through her experience, she has found that parental involvement in their autistic children's education helps the students to achieve greater success. In other words, if the parents of autistic children choose to become more educated about autism and how to help their children to learn, the children do much better than if the parents let the Kuwaiti teachers handle everything.

Both interviewees report that without parental involvement, students with autism have fewer chances for success. Lamorey (2002) states that "understanding and building on a family's cultural interpretations of disability is essential in creating partnerships with parents of children receiving special education services" (p.67). Jordan (2001) further discusses the need for parental involvement in special education in designing the IEE Also, Lamorey notes that the IEP could be used as a "working contract" (p.360) between parents, the student, and the school.

Interviewee (2) said that autistic children benefit from a curriculum that includes pictures, symbols, and a variety of tasks. Kubina and Wolfe (2005) mention the use of pictures in their study as a means of developing fluency in autistic children. They suggest that fluency be part of the curriculum.

Since the Kuwaiti teachers want to see their autistic students become a part of society, fluency could be a key. As Kubina and Wolfe (2005) state "to function in the workplace, a host of skills must reach the fluency level" (p.41).

As the result of this study, the researcher found that there is a need for curriculum that fits or is perfectly designed for autistic children. Also, based on the interviews in this study, both special education teachers have positive attitudes toward students with autism and seek parental involvement to support their work.

More research on autism is needed in Kuwait. Future and current special education teachers need courses to help them to teach autistic children better. Educational programs for parents of autistic children should be develop and implemented by the ministry of education. Arabic curriculum developers need to understand the needs of autistic children so that appropriate materials can be developed for use in Kuwait.

Appendix-A

Interview Protocol (1)

Project:

Kuwaiti Special Education Teachers' Attitudes toward Autistic Students in the Autism School in the State of Kuwait.

Time of Interview: 30 minutes.

Date: June, 8, 2005

Place: Autism School in Kuwait

Interviewer: Zaid Al-Shammari

Interviewee: Female Kuwaiti Special Education Teacher, BA Degree.

Position of Interviewee:

Questions:

1. What is your overall feeling toward students with autism in your school?

2. What do you think affects your attitude towards students with autism?

3. What subject or skills do you teach students with autism in the Autism School?

Interview Protocol (2)

Project:

Kuwaiti Special Education Teachers' Attitudes toward Autistic Students in the Autism School in the State of Kuwait.

Time of Interview: 30 minutes.

Date: June, 8, 2005

Place: Autism School in Kuwait

Interviewer: Zaid Al-Shammari

Interviewee: Female Kuwaiti Special Education Teacher, BA Degree.

Position of Interviewee:

Questions:

1. What is your overall feeling toward students with autism in your school?

2. What do you think affects your attitude towards students with autism?

3. What subject or skills do you teach students with autism in the Autism School?

Interview Protocol (1)

Project:

Kuwaiti Special Education Teachers' Attitudes toward Autistic Students in the Autism School in the State of Kuwait

Time of Interview: 30 minutes

Date: June 8, 2005

Place: Autism School in Kuwait

Interviewer: Zaid Al-Shammari

Interviewee: Female Kuwaiti Special Education Teacher, BA Degree.

Position of Interviewee:

Questions:

1. What is your attitude toward students with autism?

In order to help autistic students to succeed, teachers must spend more time and try harder to get students motivated to do work.

2. What instructional strategies do you use to teach students with autism?

I use the organized learning "TEACCH" program for learning in order to communicate with the autistic child.

3. What is your feeling toward students with autism in the Autism School?

I like to work with autistic children because they have different ways of organizing their behavior and thoughts. Working with this different group reflects upon my ability as a special education teacher.

4. How do you work/deal with you autistic students?

I try to discover each student's strengths and weaknesses and then plan or design the appropriate strategy for his individual needs.

5. What problems do you think students with autism have?

The most important problem, in my opinion, is that the autistic child's family does not apply the program at home to complete the educational process, but rather, they continue isolating the child in his personal life, which I find to be wrong.

6. How much involvement does the family have in improving special education programs for students with autism?

Parents need to better understand the needs of their autistic child and should try to learn what is new in that field so that they can apply it at home.

7. How much do the special education teachers in the Autism School cooperate/collaborate in teaching students with autism?

All teachers in my school work together to improve the program by supplementing the curriculum and by trying to improve methods to teach each autistic student.

8. What benefits do students with autism have from the special education programs?

The most important benefit is the inclusion of these students with autism socially in the environment around them, which helps them get skills that allow them to continue interacting with the people around them.

Interview Protocol (2)

Project:

Kuwaiti Special Education Teachers' Attitudes toward Autistic Students in the Autism School in the State of Kuwait

Time of Interview: 30 minutes

Date: June 8, 2005

Place: Autism School in Kuwait

Interviewer: Zaid Al-Shammari

Interviewee: Female Kuwaiti Special Education Teacher, BA Degree. Position of Interviewee:

Questions:

1. What is your attitude toward students with autism?

Autism is a very difficult disability, but training and teaching these students is very interesting.

2. What instructional strategies do you use to teach students with autism?

I use the "TEACCH" program, which organizes the class environment into separated units, each of which is dedicated to specific tasks that the autistic student needs to organize his environment and which varies his tasks to avoid feeling bored. I find that autistic student often feel bored and do not like to repeat doing a task twice a day.

3. What is your feeling toward students with autism in the Autism School?

I feel sorry for children with autism because they need more time and effort from the teacher in order to help them to be adapted to life outside the classroom.

4. How do you work/deal with your autistic students?

I try to be more clear and realistic with the autistic student because the autistic child cannot correct the information in the future if the teacher gives him wrong information the first time. I also use positive reinforcement and motivation when working with an autistic student, and I use educational materials such as pictures and symbols to facilitate learning.

5. What problems do you think students with autism have?

I believe that autistic students have problems such as disruptive behavior, increased movement, lack of attention, and strange movements.

6. Haw much involvement does the family have in improving special education programs for students with autism?

Parents' involvement plays a significant role in improving their child's condition.

7. How much do special education teachers in the Autism School cooperate/collaborate in teaching students with autism?

Teachers in my school are very cooperative.

8. What benefits do students with autism have from special education programs?

Autistic children benefit greatly because they practice daily in programs that are designed to decrease some of their problems such as inappropriate behavior, and they also improve intellectually. Also, autistic children have shown an increase in their self-confidence and independence by doing tasks and learning what they need in order to be productive. Special education programs, such as participation in field trips, help autistic children to be more socially involved, which then helps to eliminate some of the isolation they feel.

References

Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Gargiulo, R. M. (2003). Special Education in Contemporary Society: An Introduction to Exceptionality. Belmont CA: WADSWORTH, Thomson Learning, Inc.

Kubina, R. M., Jr. & Wolfe, P. (2005). Potential applications of behavioral fluency for students with autism. Exceptionality, 13(1), 35-44.

Lamorey, S. (2002). The effects of the culture on special education services: Evil eyes, prayer meetings, and IEPs. Teaching Exceptional Children, 34(5), 67-71.

Leedy, P. D. & Ormrod, J. E. (2001). Practical research: Planning and design. (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Hallahan, D. P. & Kauffman, J. M. (2000). Exceptional learners: Introduction to special education. (8th ed.). Allyn and Bacon.

Heward, W. (2006). Exceptional children: An introduction to special education (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Jordan, A. (2001). Special education in Ontario, Canada: a case study of market-based reforms. Cambridge Journal of Education, 31(3), 349-371.

Oskamp, S. & Schultz, P. W. (2005). Attitudes and Opinions. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Third Edition.

Zaid Al-Shammari, Ph.D. Candidate, Pennsylvania State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mr. Zaid Al-Shammari, Pennsylvania State University, Curriculum and Instruction at znzaid@yahoo.com.
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Author:Al-Shammari, Zaid
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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