Autism a developmental disorder and its impacts

LIST OF CONTENTS

ABSTRACT. vi

DECLARATION.. viii

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION.. 1

1.0       Background. 1

1.1 Aims/Objectives of this study. 4

1.2 Achievement of the work. 5

1.3 Research question. 6

1.4 Research method. 6

1.5 Assumptions and limitations. 6

1.6 Description of thesis organization. 7

1.7 Conclusion. 8

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW… 9

2.0 Introduction. 9

2.1 The Rationale for Intervention. 9

2.2 Development of personal planning services for individuals with autism in the education system in Saudi Arabia  14

2.3 Overview of availability of personal planning services for students with autism in Saudi Arabia  15

2.4 The impact of teachers’/ administrators’ perceptions. 23

2.5 Conclusion. 27

CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY.. 28

3.1 Introduction. 28

3.3 Research question. 29

3.6 Research procedure. 31

3.7 Study population. 32

3.8 Sampling. 32

3.9 Data Collection. 33

3.10 Data collection methods. 34

3.10.1 Questionnaires. 34

3.10.2 Interviews. 35

3.10.3 Documentary and electronic sources. 36

3.11 Conclusion. 37

CHAPTER 4: DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS, AND INTERPRETATION.. 38

4.1 Introduction. 38

4.2 Discussion of the results. 38

Table 1: Questionnaires issued and returned. 39

Table 2: Interviews conducted. 40

4.3 Demographic Profile of the Study Population. 40

Table 3: Subject demographics. 40

4.4 Personal planning services available for students with autism.. 41

4.4.1 Psychological therapy services. 42

4.4.2 Speech and language therapy services. 43

4.4.3 Physical therapy. 46

4.4.4 Social therapy services. 47

4.4.5 Occupational therapy services. 50

4.4.6 Medical and health services. 51

4.4.7 Transportation services. 52

4.4.8 Counselling services. 53

4.4.9 Recreational therapy. 54

4.5 Summary of findings. 55

4.6 Conclusion. 58

CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION, LIMITATIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS. 60

5.1 Introduction. 60

5.2 Conclusion. 60

5.3 Assumptions and limitations. 62

5.4 Recommendations. 63

5.5 Personal Achievements. 68

5.6 Future areas of research. 68

REFERENCES. 70

Acknowledgments. 83

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1: Questionnaires issued and returned. 39

Table 2: Interviews conducted. 40

Table 3: Subject demographics. 40

 

ABSTRACT

This focuses on a study aimed at examining the availability of personal planning services for individuals with autism in the education system. To realize this objective, the researcher uses both primary and secondary data gathered from special education institutes for children with disabilities and public schools with students on the autism spectrum in Saudi Arabia. As the paper describes, analyses of the data were conducted to identify the availability of personal planning strategies and their effectiveness in those institutions in Saudi Arabia. The results of this study reveal that various intervention services are available in educational institutions in Saudi Arabia. These include psychological therapy, medical and health therapy, speech and language therapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy, transportation and counseling services. On the other hand, vital services such as social therapy and occupational therapy are largely unavailable.  Before the presentation of methodology and analysis of findings, the paper gives an overview of related prior-studies that have a bearing on this study. This study helps to understand how the education system has recognized the special needs of the individual with autism in Saudi Arabia and the planning that has been incorporated into the system to support them both individually and collectively. The significance of this study stems from the fact that the percentage of individuals with autistic spectrum disorder has risen recently prompting a special focus. As such, the need for effective personal planning for such individuals in order to enable them to acquire educational needs has also increased. The results of the study indicate personal planning is adequately available in the education system for individuals with autism. However, the study poses a challenge for relevant authorities to enhance some of the vital services that are found to be unavailable in the education system in this study. Finally, this study provides insights to contribute to the future development of this line of research.

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

  • Background

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.  It is a life-long developmental disability which affects the level of comprehension of an individual to the surrounding environment. Specifically, it prevents an individual from understanding what they see, hear or sense. This disability begins at birth or within the first two to three years of life of an individual.  Autism can be traced back to the mid 20th century when the first diagnosed case was identified by children psychologists at John Hopkins Hospital (special programmes branch, 2000). But as Autism research institute (2011) explains, cases of children with this disorder were rare during the 20th century. Recently, the number of individuals diagnosed with this disability has been increasing at an alarming rate as Robledo & Ham-Kucharski (2005) explains. In fact, a 2007 research paper indicated that 1 out of 110 of all children born is diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder in the world. The findings of that study also showed that four times as many males are diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders compared to females, (Robledo & Ham-Kucharski 2005). In Saudi Arabia alone, reports presented to keen Abdullah in the year 2007 by five separate ministries identified 100000 registered cases of children diagnosed with autism.  It is for this reason that it has been become increasingly important for the whole society to recognize such individuals, understand their special needs and establish strategies to support them. One way to achieve this is through enhancing personal planning in education systems for such individuals. In view of this fact, the aim of this study is to examine the availability of such strategies and services in the school. But before engaging into the content of the study, it is vital to understand the behaviours exhibited by individuals with autism which make them require special attention.

Autism may have severe or less severe impact on the individuals on the spectrum. In order to understand its impact on individuals on the spectrum, it is important to look at the different categories of autism. Robledo and Ham-Kucharski (2005) examines four disorders that are commonly classified to comprise the autism spectrum. One of the disorders is called classic autism. According Robledo and Ham-Kucharski (2005) individuals classified in this category experience difficulties in forming social relationships. They exhibit introverted behaviours and they do not interact as normal individuals. They do not make eye contact or even initiate conversation. Such individuals may not respond when addressed.

Another characteristic observed with them is that they are usually unable to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others. In addition, they have speech problems. They have difficulties in using words and even some do not speak at all. Lastly, individuals under this category are only able to engage in activities that are repeated frequently. They are able to coordinate in day-day activities such as wearing of clothes of the same colour, eating only in a set pattern and other such repetitive behaviours.

The second category is the Asperger’s Syndrome. According to Robledo, & Ham-Kucharski, (2005), this category is common with males more than females. Most individuals in this category do not exhibit the complete symptoms of autism and its symptoms are remarkably different from those of classic category. As such, it is described as high-functioning autism. Significantly, individuals in this category do not indicate any deficiency in intellectual abilities. In fact, it has been established that some of them compete with typical individuals in school and jobs, and sometimes perform better than them. But individuals under this category possess one thing which is common with children in other classifications; their social life. According to Robledo, and Ham-Kucharski, (2005) children with Asperger’s Syndrome have a “qualitative impairment in social interaction”. Specifically, they are unable to develop appropriate relationships with other people, do not share their interests and problems and have difficulties in making social responsiveness with others. Most remarkably, most of them lack coordination of non-verbal behaviours such as facial expressions, eye contact and gestures, (Stoddart, 2005)

The third category of autism is called Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS). The category includes individuals with autism who exhibit symptoms that do not entirely fit in classic autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Such individuals exhibit one or more of the behaviours associated with classic autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or both. For example, such individuals may posses a basic ability to gesture unlike many individuals with autism but are not able to form comprehensible sentences and they are unable to converse their emotions if any. When they speak, they do so with little or no emotion. They speak in the same manner when they are angry or not.

The last category examined by Robledo, and Ham-Kucharski, (2005) is Fragile X syndrome. Fragile X syndrome is an inherited chromosomal deformity which is usually classified under autism spectrum.  Persons classified on the spectrum have a certain gene that is not able to produce a protein needed by the brain in order to learn. This results into impairment of the mental faculties which makes it difficult for them to regulate moods. Such individuals may suffer from epileptic seizures. They usually have long face, flat feet and big years. The degree of mental impairment seems to be higher in boys than in girls as Robledo, and Ham-Kucharski, (2005) explains. This category of autism can be confirmed using genetic testing, unlike the other forms.

In summary, children with autism are characterized with impairments in social interaction and communication. In addition, they portray repetitive, restricted and stereotypic patterns of behaviour, activities and interests. As a result, individual on autism spectrum are unique and hence require special attention. This explains the need to enhance suitable personal planning services for the education and training of children with autism, (Harper-Hill & Lord, 2007)  In Saudi Arabia, the ministry of education is responsible free and appropriate education for students with all disabilities including autism, (Ministry of education, 2008). This organ is also responsible for enhancing strategies for providing personal planning services in education system in order to support such students and help to live independently and safely. Therefore, this study focuses on personal planning services that are available in the education system for students with autism as described in the objectives section below.

1.1 Aims/Objectives of this study

The central aim of this study is to analyse the available instructional/educational services for individuals with autism both individually and collectively.

The specific objectives of this research include:

  • Understanding the education system for individuals with autism in relation to personal planning by examining the available strategies that have been used to educate and instruct individuals with autism.
  • Examining the effectiveness of the existing personal planning services available for children with autism
  • Determining vital personal planning services that need to be incorporated in the education to cater for the special needs of students with autism

1.2 Achievement of the work

Researchers and academicians have quoted the social stigma as the major challenge that people living with autism are facing in their social, emotional and academic life. Wagner (2009) argues that teachers and trainers of individuals classified with autism are faced with many challenges, among them being how to incorporate the individuals together with other students and society in such a way that the individuals do not feel isolated. They have challenge of exposing these students to as many experiences as possible to make them conversant with the real world (Wetherby & Prizant, 2000). These teachers and trainers can successfully overcome the challenges when their efforts are complemented with programs aimed at providing personal planning services to assist in overcoming difficulties encountered by the children with autism both in school and after school life.

This study examines in details some of the personal planning services that are available in public schools and special education institutions to complement the efforts of the teachers and trainers in incorporating students with autism with the typical students. It examines the special needs of such students and sufficiently explores the importance of the personal planning services to such students. As such, the study has moved the researcher further in understanding the needs of individuals under autism spectrum and provided an insight on how interact with them. The study is also intended to help all teachers and trainers of students with autism who are about to implement or improve their practices in dealing with individuals with the needs of such students. In addition, the study is intended to bring challenge to teachers and trainers of children with autism governments and other entities to enhance effectiveness of personal planning services that are available for such students and to add more services as per the needs of those students. This has been achieved through thorough scrutiny of recent information materials that discuss autism and education and also the use of first-hand data collected through interviews and questionnaires in this study.

1.3 Research question

What personal planning strategies are available for students with autism in education system for students with autism?

1.4 Research method

The research was both ethnographic and desk-based. Scholarly articles and books on personal planning for students with autism were reviewed. Additionally, primary data on the same topic was collected using survey questionnaires and interviews.

1.5 Assumptions and limitations

There are several limitations and assumptions that relate to this study as explained earlier. First, the size of sample that was used for the purpose of this study was small and was limited to a few public schools and special education institutes located in few regions only in Saudi Arabia. In other words, there is no evidence that the sample used in this study is typical of the whole population of study. Another limitation is the fact that the primary data from interviews conducted in this study was collected at a particular point in time for each respondent. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the responses gathered would be indicative of the responses that would be given at another time. In addition, there is potential that other factors beyond the researcher’s control such as fatigue of participants, settings and time of day could influence the responses during interviews.

Another major challenge that the researcher faced was time available to access to the different institutions that provided educational programmes for children with autism in Saudi Arabia. The administrators in most of the institutions provided only limited time for the researcher or his/her personal assistant to spend with individuals with autism. Also, the availability of current academic content on personal planning services available for children with autism in particular was minimal. The researcher relied more on primary data. The final limitation is that the researcher had limited experience in conducting scholarly research and evaluating the data.

1.6 Description of thesis organization

This research comprises of five chapters. The first chapter frames the area of interest and also outlines the problem to be investigated. The research question is presented, the objectives of the study are highlighted and the achievements of the research are mentioned. Additionally, this chapter highlights some of the limitations of the study.

The second chapter reviews literature on availability of personal planning strategies for students with autism in education in Saudi Arabia and evaluates their effectiveness. The third chapter examines the research’s methodological approach the strategies employed for collection of both primary and data and points out limitations encountered. The fourth chapter presents the findings of the study in relation to the question raised in the first chapter. Discursive analysis of both primary and secondary data is conducted in the same chapter. The fifth chapter gives the summary of the research, conclusion and recommendation.

1.7 Conclusion

As explained in this chapter, the study shall focus on personal planning strategies available in special education institutes and public schools in Saudi Arabia. The next chapter will present literature that has been reviewed for the purpose of this study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.0 Introduction

This chapter reviews literature on availability of personal planning services for individuals with autism particularly in Saudi Arabia as disclosed in various sources. Further, the literature in this chapter examines the effectiveness of the available services with regard to the perceptions of individuals on autism spectrum that is held by teachers and administrators. But before, getting into those details, the chapter offers a justification of intervention as it shall be seen. Then, this is followed by a brief look of the prevalence of autism in Saudi Arabia followed by a quick overview of how special education has evolved in that country before reviewing similar prior-studies.

2.1 The Rationale for Intervention

Children living with autism require special attention and specific services depending on the unique needs of each child, (United States Accountability Office, 2005). Depending on the kind of disorders they have, an appropriate therapy ought to be administered. For instance, speech therapy is administered for individuals with autistic speech disorders. Cameto and Wagner (2003) point out several needs expressed by all individuals with autism irrespective of the severity of the disability. These include behavioural intervention, Professional training and support, Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, Social relations support and assistance, Communications services and therapy, Vision services, Mobility training, Mental health care and Audiology training.

  • According to Cameto and Wagner (2003), educational objectives for students diagnosed with autism ought to be tailored towards meeting the above needs. The authors discussed various training skills that can assist individuals with autism to acquire those needs. First, individuals on autism spectrum need to be trained to acquire Communications skills. This covers the development of both verbal and non-verbal skills. The use of symbols and signs as a form of non-verbal communication should be encouraged for the person under the spectrum whose verbal strength has been completely affected.
  • According to Cameto et al (2004), Social and interaction skills are also necessary for individuals with autism. This involves the way the individual will relate to and interact with the environment. The objectives should be geared towards creating the impression that the affected person is living in the real world and towards helping them to understand and relate to the environment. Social skills also include learning the appropriate and conventional societal skills which are the best code of conduct.
  • Cameto and Wagner (2003) also points out that virtually all individuals on autism spectrum need to be trained to acquire Physical skills. This involves learning several skills involving movement such as walking, playing, performing simple home and school tasks among others. Further, Cameto and Wagner (2003) explain that Cognitive skills should be developed so that the child with autism can achieve the required academic skills and continue to build and engage his/her mind. Finally, Cameto et al (2004), explain that individuals with autism should be assisted to acquire problem-solving and decisional skills. According to the authors, developing these skills should also be a lead objective when designing an educational strategy to educate autistic individuals. Such skills will help children perform important task like organising, controlling, and coordinating their activities.
  • Myles et al (2007) further adds that the goals and aspirations of children with autism should not be seen as different from those of typical children. The goals are the same and similar to those of typical children. According to Alberta Children Services (2002), a child with autism can achieve high level personality, occupational, and social success if they are taken care of properly. Hence all parties involved in the program should promote the type of development that will make children on autism spectrum more independent in the future.
  • Individuals with autism, like other people, have the right to participate in society and to develop their skills particularly through securing job opportunities. Therefore, the government plans to provide education for individuals with autism should include penetration into the job market (Lundine & Smith 2006). Unconscious learning through socialising, peer influence, and interaction has been stated by many academicians to be one of the best and influential strategies that can be used to train individuals with autism, (Simpson 2005). According to Bryna (2008), children with autism should be prepared for their future lives as early as possible by identifying the best careers for each child depending on their strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
  • The treatment and education of children with autism require a lot in terms of financial resources and time, (Matson, 2008). As such, many parents of children with autism who cannot afford the finances to take their children to special schools and to pay for therapists and professional counsellors have been encountering numerous problems. In fact, in many countries, parents of children with autism and anti-autism social associations have sought financial and professional assistance from national governments and social welfare organisations to ensure those children make a proper and consolidated transition to adulthood, (Willis 2006).
  • The process of training and educating individuals with autism is highly effective when started in early childhood. Children with autism are likely to respond to training more easily at earlier ages than when they become adults. According to McClannahan et al. (2002), children with autism need to be assisted to develop a better understanding of their environment, enhance their social and communication skills, and develop the required career and personal planning for their future. Quill (1995) further explains that Planning, training, and educating individuals with autism is a complex and lengthy shared responsibility and does not only include instilling in the individual the required skills and knowledge but also training them in how to use and perfect these skills so that they can be of help in their future lives.
  • According to DIANE Publishing Company (1996), many professional bodies and individuals have identified and used the correct training, education and treatment methods that offer a good chance of producing the best results for individual diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Individuals with autism require effective preventative measures because they are always health problems. The above intervention services may have no medical basis but on some occasions, they restore the normalcy of the individuals on autism spectrum which leads to counter reactions because they have no clinical or theoretical foundation.
  • The first step to identifying best practice in restoring the normalcy of individuals with autism is to evaluate the suitability of methods already used on students and individuals with ASD, (Simpson 2007). The evaluation should be based on specific individuals who have specific problems and needs. Since the new personal planning strategies are being developed, the next step will be to evaluate future practices that are likely to occur and compare them with already existing practices and come up with a harmonised practice that will take less time and cost and produce the best results.
  • Simpson et al. (2005) highlights several considerations when deciding the training or treatment that is suitable for any individual with autism. These include, anticipated results and effects, professionalism of the people expected to apply the treatment of persons with autism, the time and conditions where the practice is likely to be most productive, Risks that may result due to implementation of given methods and how such risks can be managed and the costs involved in terms of financial resources and time. Simpson et al (2005) further argues that there is no one method that is universally accepted to be the only effective method to train or treating individuals with autism, but there are many strategies that can form a basis for intervention.
  • National Autistic Society (2000) noted that, despite many effective measures which are taken by parents and professional bodies to facilitate the complete transition of children with autism to a promising future, many of them have been unable to get employment opportunities. Howlin (2000) further explains that even those individuals on the spectrum but with relatively less severe symptoms continue to depend fully on their parents or guardians because only few opportunities are available for them. This shows a fault in the effectiveness of some of the training services provided for children with autism. Effective training should enable them to live up to their potential in their future lives especially through securing employment opportunities, (Howlin 2000).
  • Previous researches have revealed much about the nature, causes, and treatment of autism. Many researchers have dwelled much on behavioural and psychological remedies which only help in improving the social life of affected individuals, (Dodd, S, 2010). The other areas of individuals’ lives that have a direct impact on their welfare and future such as education have received minimal academic attention. There is therefore a research gap in establishing educational interventions for autism disorders. This research seeks to fill this gap in examining availability of appropriate personal planning services in schools and special education institutes that can enhance support of children with autism. For the purpose of this study, the researcher focuses on Saudi Arabian education system where he/she is able to collect data to support his/her theory. By reviewing literature on prior-studies related to the topic in Saudi Arabia, the researcher will be able to form hypothesis come up with findings and make valid conclusions from this study.

2.2 Development of personal planning services for individuals with autism in education system in Saudi Arabia

Before 1958, children with disabilities in Saudi Arabia did not receive any special education services (Al-Quraini, 2007). It was the responsibility of their parents to provide assistance to them in all of their needs. Special education began to emerge in 1958 after schools for children with disabilities called scientific institutes were established. The scientific institutes provided intervention services for all students with disabilities in general. By then, these institutes did not give much focus to personal needs of students with disabilities. Instead, they focussed on educational requirements of persons with disabilities as Al-Quraini, (2007) explains. Later in 1962, the ministry of education of Saudi Arabia established a special education department meant to improve rehabilitation and learning for students with disabilities in general. This department established programs aimed at supporting some of the personal needs of students with disabilities in general including transportation, psychological services, recreational therapy and counselling services among others. In 1972, the ministry of education opened an institute to provide care, learning and rehabilitation for children with disabilities which largely included those with autism (Al-Quraini, 2007). One of the remarkable steps is the subsequent inclusion of children with autism and other disabilities in the general education programme (Al-Quraini, T., (2010). This step has assisted in the development of various intervention services for students with autism such as play therapy and physical therapy services. In short, the early efforts to improve special education services led to establishment of various programs aimed at increasing support services for children with autism. As a result, several personal planning services for students with autism are currently available in the education system in Saudi Arabia as indicated in various prior-researches highlighted in this study.

2.3 Overview of availability of personal planning services for students with autism in Saudi Arabia

Numerous studies and sources indicate that Saudi Arabia has highly improved recently in providing services for children with autism which enable them to gain high quality education. The government of Saudi Arabia has since 1964 come up with policies and laws aimed at supporting children with disabilities through directed services to be offered in public schools and special education institutions, (Al-Quraini, 2010).  Some of these codes of laws include the Disability code (2000) and legislation of disability (1987) among others. In spite of all these efforts, there is need for more improvement of the services. For example, personal planning services for children with disabilities are provided to all students in general without giving focus to the root cause of the disorder. These services could be well provided if various disabilities are classified separately. Specifically, it would be easier to manage and provide personal needs of students with autism when such a disability is treated as a separate case from other disabilities. Remarkably, not many researches have gone as far as looking personal planning services provided for students with autism as a separate case from other disabilities. Additionally, some of the laws such as legislation of disability (1987) code and Disability code (2000) code were passed more than decade ago and are not largely practised in the real world with students with autism. Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge the efforts by the government of Saudi Arabia examining the personal planning services that have been incorporated in the education system to enhance support for the children with disabilities and specifically give focus on children with autism in this study.

  • According to the Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia (2008), usually, mainstreaming of special education gives consideration to students with mild learning disabilities in Saudi Arabia. They participate in the general curriculum and learn together with typical students though with some modifications to suite their needs. But in some cases, those with moderate disabilities are included in the general education curriculum but they receive their education in separate classrooms with typical students. They share time with normal students during break and lunch hours and develop peers in non-curricular activities. In such cases, the schools provide special education curriculum for them that is different from the one used by for typical students. According to Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia (2008) students with moderate and mild disabilities attend elementary schools from ages of 6 to about 14 years and then attend middle school until age of 18. As Al-Ajmi, 2006 explains, it is essential to educate all the students in general education settings and this is a great step taken by the government of Saudi Arabia. However, successful inclusion of the students with disabilities could more effective through enhancing more personal planning services for them in the general curriculum. Such services as social services and others may help to include all students with mild and moderate disabilities in classrooms together typical students. The argument here is that as explained earlier, some children with autism have abilities to compete with typical students in education and this can be adequately realised when they receive education in same classrooms.
  • On the other hand, students with severe disabilities in Saudi Arabia receive their education in separate institutions from the typical students. According to Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia (2008) there are other many reasons why such students acquire education in segregated settings including:

lacking of weariness and training among public school teachers about students with disabilities, the fear that students with disabilities may endanger students in the population, the notion of educators that the equal but separate theory is the best way teach students with and without disabilities (Al-Faiz, 2006, p. 21).

  • The special education institutes provide basic needs and financial assistance for the students with moderate or severe disabilities. The students remain in those institutions and return home only during weekends. According to Ministry of Education in Saudi Arabia (2008, such students receive individual education programs (IEPs) which is designed and modified differently from the general education curriculum and designed from the special education curriculum so as to support them. However, as Al-Ajmi (2006) explains, the ministry of education of Saudi Arabia has faced several challenges in providing education for students with disabilities in separate schools from typical students. First, those setting do not allow the students to interact with typical students which could help to improve their communication, social and educational skills. The families of such students often are not able to visit the children in their classes every day due to distances between family homes and schools. Thus, they often feel neglected by the family members. Though the government of Saudi Arabia has so far enhanced programs and services to counter those challenges, the findings of that study raises questions about the effectiveness of social services in special education institutes which could greatly assist to improve social and communication skills for students on autism spectrum
  • In the year 2001, the government of Saudi Arabia introduced Regulations of Special Education Programs and Institutes (RSEPI) to develop the policy of special education for students with disability further. Under this program, all children with disabilities are entitled to early intervention programs, free and appropriate education, individual education programs, transition services and related services. In addition, schools are required to provide IEPs for all students with disabilities including those on autism spectrum. Al-Herz (2008) conducted a research to examine effectiveness of IEPs and related difficulties in the program. The researcher conducted the study in special education institutions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The research findings showed that the teachers in those schools were able to determine the important components of IEPs and in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The teachers were able to make personal plans for the students that helped them to realize short-term and long-term objectives. However, the study also pointed out several obstacles to effective and appropriate IEPs.  One of the obstacles is lack of lack of well-organized multidisciplinary teams from the special education teacher, the previous teacher of the child and other members needed. The study also found out that a special education teacher takes care of up to 15 students with autism and other disabilities making it difficult for him/her to give attention to individual needs. In other words the findings of the study showed that there were ineffective social services for students with autism and other disabilities that could in turn enhance effectiveness of IEPs.

According to Al-Quraini (2010), there are several programs that have been put in place by the government of Saudi Arabia to enhance support for students with autism and other disabilities in school systems. One of the strategies is called Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). It is a personal program that involves only the trainer and the individual with autism. In this case, psychological therapists are able to plan for an education program depending on the personal interest of the individual. Professional psychological therapists spend between 20 and 40 hours every week training individuals with autism in the basic skills they require to improve their lives. This method has been used to teach children with autism how to talk, (Al-Quraini, 2010).

Sensory assimilation strategy is another planning strategy that has been incorporated in education system for students with autism in Saudi Arabia, Al-Quraini, (2010).  This method usually gives focus on normalising the individual senses particularly motion, touch, and those connected with the joints. This is more of a physical solution to autism but it includes adequate planning for every child with autism to establish the effects of autism on the child’s sensory system so that an effective intervention program can be devised. In short, physical therapy services are available for students with autism in the special education institutes and public schools in Saudi Arabia as Al-Quraini, (2010) implies. Another personal planning strategy available in schools in Saudi Arabia to support children with Autism is Communications psychotherapy, (Al-Quraini, (2010).  This is a treatment that is usually integrated with other home or school programs for it to be effective. A minimum of two weeks are reserved to put into effect this therapy. Under this strategy, sign language is also used to reinforce the pronunciation of words. According to Al-Quraini, (2010), many public schools and special education institutes in Saudi Arabia have incorporated programs that enhance use of visual elements to train deaf children and children with autism. This explains that speech and language therapy services are available for students with autism in the education system in Saudi Arabia.

Lastly Al-Quraini, (2010) explains that enhancing interaction with typical students is another behavioural strategy that is mostly used in an educational setting in Saudi Arabia. Many schools encourage typical children to interact freely with those with autism. Additionally, Individuals with autism and other disabilities are encouraged and helped to make friendship with peers. This has greatly improved their skills of interaction with other people and their perception of reality. Social forums like school clubs, sporting activities, and other activities involving shared interests create a good environment for individuals with autism to develop important social skills and a sense of belonging to society. This explains that recreational therapy services are available in education system for students with autism, (Al-Quraini, (2010).  According to Al-Quraini, (2010), psychological professionals have been very helpful in assisting individuals with autism to overcome various behavioural problems.  Psychological therapists help individuals with autism to fight stress, depression, and other psychological problems. Physical social networks are also highly encouraged for students with autism and other disabilities in Saudi Arabia.  Therefore, the government of Saudi Arabia has played a great role in enhancing psychological services for students with autism in the education system.

  • However, all those personal planning services do not adequately prepare the students with autism for life after they complete elementally and middle school education. Many of them are unable to further their education except in some vocational training centres, (Lundine & Smith 2006). This has posed a challenge to device more personal planning strategies for such children that will make them more independent. Individuals with autism, like other people, have the right to participate in society and to develop their skills particularly through securing job opportunities. Therefore, government plans for providing education for individuals with autism should include penetration into the job market, Lundine & Smith (2006). Children should be prepared for their future lives as early as possible by identifying the best careers for each child depending on their strengths, weaknesses, and interests, (Mackenzie 2008). According to Al-Ajmi, 2006, the education system of Saudi Arabia does not provide as occupational therapists services for students with autism. Such services could enable the students to more benefits from the IEPs and would help them to develop
  • According to McClannahan et al (2002), the process of training of individuals with autism can be highly effective when started early in childhood. Children at earlier ages are likely to respond to training more easily than adults. Such children will develop a better understanding of their environment, enhance their social and communication skills, and develop the required career and personal planning for their future. Therefore, it is advisable for governments to come up with programs that will provide services which will address the needs of the children with disabilities at an earlier age than 6 years as in the case of Saudi Arabia.

Various studies have been conducted to examine the availability of personal planning services for individuals with disabilities in both the public schools and special education institutions in Saudi Arabia. First, Hanafi conducted a research in the same topic in special education institutions in the year 2008 (Hanafi 2008). The findings of the research showed that medical and health services were available to students with autism and other disabilities and both public schools and special education services institutions in Saudi Arabia. However, the author found that services and social workers were not available in some of the institutions. Also, a study conducted by Al-Otaibi and Al-Sartawi (2009) in Saudi Arabia under the same of research provided related results. The researchers examined that public schools and special education institutes in Saudi Arabia provided physical therapy, medical and health services but social services were not present in most schools and institutions.

On the other hand Al-Wabli (1996) examined feasibility personal planning strategies available for students with autism in Saudi Arabia in both the public and special education institutes. The author found out that many schools with such children developed an individual plan that gave focus on individual unique needs and abilities of each student with autism. The researcher examined that the plan was meant to gain insightful data which could help in devising the best treatment method. In addition, this would enable close evaluation of the needs of students with autism which in turn would help to determine the expected result of the treatment process that would be used, Al-Wabli (1996).  During the study, the author examined that speech-language therapists, psychologists and school counsellors were available in schools. However, social workers and occupational therapy services were limited.

Another study was conducted by Al-Quraini (2007) in both public schools and special education institutes on the same topic. The author found out that the schools provided various services for children with autism and other disabilities such as, psychological services, school health services, speech and language therapy, school counselling and transportation. But other services such as occupational therapy and social services were rare in public schools. In summary, the above studies indicated that transportation, counselling, physical therapy, speech and therapy pathology medical and health services and psychological services are available in most education institutions for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia. But the studies also showed that vital services such as social therapy and occupational therapy are not available in education system for individuals on autism spectrum.

2.4 The impact of teachers’/ administrators’ perceptions

  • The effectiveness of personal planning services for children with autism is highly dependent on the perception of the teachers and administrators of such students, (Auramidis & Norwich, 2002). Cook (2001) explained that negative perspective of such students by their teachers and administrators may impede the process of providing services provided by the education system for such students. The authors pointed out that some of the teachers dealing with students with disabilities prefer to work with moderate rather than severe disabilities. According to Cook (2004), there have been numerous studies focusing on the role of teachers in enhancing effectiveness of personal planning services provided in the education system for students with autism and other disabilities. But according to Kozub & Lienert, 2003 only a few of them have indicated that teachers and administrators of students with disabilities both in public schools and in special education institutes have negative attitude towards such students. An example of this is a study conducted by Cook (2001) (as cited in Kozub & Lienert, 2003) on the same topic in Saudi Arabia. Cook concluded that some teachers hold negative attitudes towards their students with autism and other disabilities characterised by rejection nomination and indifference. According to cook, the depth of the feelings is usually dependent on the levels of disabilities. In addition cook’s found out that children with severe disabilities are likely to be rejected by some teachers and administrators compared to those with moderate and mild disabilities. This explains that, such teacher and administrators may not provide personal planning services which are provided in the education system adequately.
  • Another study conducted by Al-Ahmadi (2009) in Saudi Arabia also indicated that some teachers and administrators might have negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. The researcher examined the perspectives of general education and special education teachers in public schools in Saudi Arabia. Al-Ahmadi analyzed their independent and demographic variables (e.g. gender, degree of experience, perception of the disabled students and previous training in special education among others. Generally, the research findings indicated that the number of teachers with a negative perception was higher compared to those with positive perceptions.
  • On the other hand, numerous studies have indicated that most teachers especially in the elementary education system have a positive attitude towards the inclusion of the students with disabilities in the general education system. A good example is a study conducted by Al-Faiz (2006) on the attitudes of 240 teachers working in elementary schools in Saudi Arabia regarding their perspectives of the students with disabilities. The researcher found out that most teachers in elementary schools had positive attitude towards inclusive education and were ready to enhance personal planning for the students. Another study conducted by Al-Abduljabber (1994) produced similar results. In this case, the researcher investigated attitudes of 221 teachers and administrators towards inclusive of students with autism and other disabilities. The researcher collected the sample of study from public schools in Saudi Arabia. Generally, the findings of this study indicated that most teachers and administrators had positive attitude towards the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education program.
  • Another study was conducted by Dubis (1987) whereby the researcher surveyed 373 special education teachers and administrators regarding their attitudes towards mainstreaming of students with autism in Saudi Arabia. The author examined their attitudes in relation to contacts with other children, age, grade level and gender. Generally, the author found out that the majority of the special education teachers and administrators had positive attitude regarding the inclusion of children with autism and other disabilities in the general education curriculum. Not many studies have been conducted on the attitudes of teachers and other school staff regarding the inclusion of children with disabilities in the general education system. But as mentioned earlier, most of those that have been done indicate that most teachers have positive attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities in the main stream. These findings suggest that most of the teachers are appreciate and are ready to provide support services to the children with autism that are provided in the education system both at collective and individual levels.
  • Another issue that affects the availability of personal planning services for students with autism examined in Saudi Arabia is the faith of the Saudi society. The society in that state is based on Islamic faith and follows the teachings of Sunnah and the Qur’an stated by Prophet Muhammad. Consequently, the cultural values of Saudi society deals with disabilities in accordance with policies in the Sunnah and the Qur’an, (Al-Mousa, 1999). According to the teachings of these books, disability is sometimes perceived to result from punishment for a person who has disrespected a family with a child with disability. Also, it may be perceived as a test of patience for those who have been prepared a place in heaven by Allah and who will not go unrewarded for the patience. These perceptions lead people in Saudi Arabia to treat persons with autism and other disabilities negatively. Sometimes, such individuals are discriminated against or ignored in public. They are also prevented from practicing their rights like typical individuals do. As a result, some teachers and administrators in public and special education institutions may have such perception of the people with autism. A teacher with such a perception is likely not to provide quality support services for students with autism even when such services are availed by the state.
  • 5 Conclusion
  • The review of the literature in this chapter has demonstrated that various personal planning services are available in education system for individuals with autism. Services such as psychological therapy, physical therapy, medical and health, speech and language therapy, school counselling and transportation services have been mentioned as being available in most public schools and special education institutes particularly in Saudi Arabia. Remarkably, the sources have demonstrated that vital services such as those provided by social workers and occupational therapists are rare in education system in Saudi Arabia. Given that the effectiveness of the available services may depend on the teachers and administrators of students with disabilities, the above literature has demonstrated that many of them are supportive of such children and are likely to provide the support services effectively.

The third chapter presents the research methodology adopted for the study. The components of the chapter include: introduction to research methodology research, philosophy behind the study, the research design/strategy adopted by the researcher, research procedure taken, study population, sampling, data collection, the primary data collection instruments used and the documentary sources consulted to provide secondary data. Thus, this chapter sets out to analyse the process of data collection, the source of the data, and the type of data collected, and lays down the guidelines for analysing, interpreting and drawing conclusions from the data.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.1 Introduction

Methodology refers to the way and manner in which a study is conducted and includes all the methods used to carry out research within the social and natural sciences. It is the process adopted by the researchers to conduct the research (Young, 1996). According to Rowley (1991), “research methodology helps to achieve a complete and correct set of information requirements from those involved in the study.” This chapter will provide the methodology opted by the researcher for the purpose of this study. The methodology used in this study is influenced by the purpose of the study as it shall be seen. It is based on assessment of the optimal strategy for responding to the research questions of this study.  As disclosed in this chapter, the researcher sought views of respondents regarding the effectiveness of the available personal planning services that have been used to ensure the complete transition of individuals with autism to adulthood. The research also collected relevant and diverse views of the many scholars and welfare associations that have conducted intensive studies in related to the subject matter. But first, the chapter presents the research questions and the hypothesis and reviews the philosophy behind the study.

3.2 Purpose of study

The primary purpose of this study is to examine education system with a specific focus on special education institutes and public schools in Saudi Arabia. The reason for doing this is to investigate the availability of intervention services in those institutions aimed at supporting individuals with autism to acquire vital skills. To fulfil this purpose, it was necessary for the researcher to review literature on personal planning services available in the education system for individuals with autism. This necessitated an exploration of various public schools and special education institutes in Saudi Arabia on available intervention services for individuals with autism as well as vital services which are not available. To achieve this, it was important for the researcher to collect data related to the topic from parents, teachers and administrators of students with autism from those education institutions. All of this was done with an aim of satisfying the research question which was to examine availability of personal planning services in education system for individuals with autism.

3.3 Research question

What personal planning s services are available for students with autism in education system for students with autism in Saudi Arabia?

3.4 Research problem

The study, like it is clear from the research question and chapter one examines a single problem. This problem is the availability of personal planning services in education system for individuals with autism. The problem of the study emerges from this focus and the researcher gives attention to education system in Saudi Arabia. Simply stated, the number of children with autism is highly increasing in the whole human society. Similarly, the need to recognize the special needs for such children and to incorporate them in the society has risen. To this end, it has become important to provide special intervention services for such students in education system to assist them to gain various important skills. Accordingly, the research problem as explained is how such individuals have been receiving to acquire training in important skills in through various intervention services available in education system.

3.5 Research strategy

Research strategy influences the design and gives an opportunity to the researcher to examine how each of the various available approaches may limit or contribute to his/her study, (Trochim, 2000). For the purpose of this study, the researcher found it vital to examine applicability of both quantitative/qualitative approaches.

3.5.1 Qualitative versus quantitative approach

Qualitative tools are based on content analysis, among other things and after which the results are presented in a non-numerical format. Qualitative approach helps the researcher to gain a very deep insight into the topic of study. On the other hand, quantitative tools generally borrow from physical sciences in that they are structured to analyse data collected rather than views and perceptions, (Creswell, 2003). In this study, the researcher adopted a naturalistic approach so as to understand the topic under study in specified contextual settings and also due to the probing nature of the study topic. As stated earlier, the main objective of this research was to investigate the availability of personal planning services in general education system and in special education institutes for individuals with autism and to determine how effective the available services are. Therefore, to achieve the stated objective, the researcher opted for qualitative approach defined by Creswell (2003) as a “Sequential Exploratory Strategy”. According to Creswell 2003, qualitative research strategy provides a very flexible approach in collecting and analysing data.

The researcher opted for qualitative approach since it is relatively more adjustable and open to changes, which may need to be made as the study progresses. For instance, if the researcher realises that one tool of data collection will not deliver the required information, he/she can choose to use another tool. In addition, qualitative approach is more reliable and the data collected can always be validated. Also, qualitative approach is less prone to manipulation because of the nature of the methods used to gather information. As Patton (2002, p.39) points out, qualitative research uses no statistical or measurable figures but produces findings from an analysis of real word situational contexts. Because the study involved analysing individual experiences, this approach provided the best way of describing the experiences of individuals with autism, their, parents, teachers and administrators. Qualitative research involves participatory information collection methods such as interviews and questionnaires, especially as, Creswell (2003) explains.  According to Creswell 2003 these methods are vital since they enable the researcher to have a human touch with all the respondents in the process of study so that opinions and experiences can be clearly brought out. Thus, the researcher found qualitative research approach to be the best to approach to address the topic of this study compared to the quantitative approach.

3.6 Research procedure

This research project relied on two basic phases, namely a conceptualisation and an empirical phase. In the conceptualisation phase, relevant literature was reviewed and the tools of data collection, particularly questionnaire and interview schedules, developed. During the empirical phase, data was actually collected from the selected sections based on the qualitative approach. During this phase data was analysed according to content validity as per the set objectives of the research.

The process of collecting data started with addressing traditional ethical issues of access, acceptance, privacy, and confidentiality. The researcher sought permission from all relevant authorities in those places where data was collected (special education institutes’ and public schools’ administrations in Saudi Arabia). The researcher also took the initiative to inform all participants what the research was about so that they could prepare for the interviews and questionnaires. The participants were assured that their personal identities would not be disclosed given that much of the information requested for involved the personal experiences and perspectives.

3.7 Study population

In this research project, the observable entities included the parents of students with autism as well as teachers and administrators those children in public schools and special education institutes from various regions in Saudi Arabia.  Since it is not possible to study all parents, teachers and administrators of children with autism in Saudi Arabia, a sizeable and manageable segment of the population had to be identified through the sampling process.

3.8 Sampling

This is a process of selecting a number of individuals for study in such a way that the individuals selected represent the larger population from which they were selected (Gill and Johnson, 1997). The sample selected for the purpose of this study included participants from two different groups of respondents. The first group included 21 teachers and administrators. 12 of them were taken from 5 special education institutes and the 9 from 6 public schools with students under autism spectrum in Saudi Arabia. The second group included 11 parents, each with a child with autism in the institutions described earlier. The parents, teachers and administrators selected were engaged by the researcher in interviews, questionnaires.

The researcher decided to use simple random sampling to choose the institutions from which the sample would be drawn in Saudi Arabia. This is because the numbers of schools and special education institutes that provide intervention programmes for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia are vast and evenly spread. The researcher also decided to conduct interviews on the parents, teachers and administrator who received questionnaires. Those participants were selected at random. To achieve this, the researcher sent the questionnaires to heads of administrators in those institutions and requested them to spread them to the respondents at random. The researcher decided to include the parents of the students with autism after learning from the heads of those institutions that most of the parents visited their children in certain days of the week depending on the institution. Interview schedules were sent together with the questionnaires for parents, teachers and administrators. After confirmation through email that the questionnaires were received and spread to the respondents from the heads of administrators in those institutions, the researcher gave a period of one month before starting the process of interview and collecting of questionnaires.

3.9 Data Collection

The aim of any data collection methodology is to improve the reliability and validity of the information obtained. While deciding about the method of data collection to be used for a study, the researcher has to keep in mind the two types of data, i.e. primary and secondary data. Primary data is the data collected for the first time and thus happen to be original in character. On the other hand, secondary data is that which has been processed through a statistical process, i.e. data which have been collected at an earlier date and for some other purpose (Plessis, 2004). Secondary data is usually based on desk-based research. As Plessis, (2004) explains, whether or not primary or secondary data is included, the value of a research is based on is related to its data collection methods. This study needed both primary and secondary data. Primary data was collected through questionnaires and interviews while secondary data was collected through documentary analysis and Internet sources. Both the primary and secondary data provided the researcher with most of the information needed for this research. Based on it concrete conclusions were drawn and real recommendations were made.

3.10 Data collection methods

3.10.1 Questionnaires

A questionnaire is a form of inquiry that contains systematically compiled and organised questions that are meant to probe into the area of research or find out more details. They are distributed to a sampled population, responded to, and returned to the researcher for analysis.  They are basically meant to only secure sought-after information relevant to the study. They are time savers and convenient, especially where the population sample is spread over a large cross-section. They have been used for the collection of personal preferences, specific attitudes, beliefs, opinions, behaviour patterns, group practices and habits, and much other data. The questionnaire is designed to collect data from large, diverse, and scattered groups of people, (Young, 1996).

The researcher found questionnaires to be the best data collection method since it would allow him/her to collect large volume of information in a short time and on a limited budget, (Creswell 2003). Also, questionnaires were used because the respondents would have ample time to fill them out and provide accurate answers. They also ensure that information is collected in an environment free from interviewer distortion and error. Sending of Questionnaires through mail was also convenient method because of the low cost since the respondents were spread out. As explained earlier, research questionnaire was administered to a random sample of parents, teachers and administrators picked different pubic schools and special education institutions in Saudi Arabia. The questionnaires were sent out by mail but the researcher went to collect them personally. The questionnaires sent comprised of close-ended questions. The questionnaires contained a list of personal planning services and the participants were instructed to confirm their availability in those institutions for children with autism. They were instructed to simply tick a YES or a NO check box. During collection of questionnaires, the researcher was assisted by five personal representatives who also conducted interviews.

3.10.2 Interviews

The use of interviews is a very helpful method of collecting data for a study employing qualitative approach.  Through this method the researcher was able to collect information form individuals with autism, parents, teachers and administrators regarding the availability of personal planning services in education system for individuals with autism. In addition, the interviews enabled the researcher to understand perspectives of teachers and administrators regarding the students with autism both in public schools and special education institutions in Saudi Arabia. This would help the researcher to evaluate the effectiveness of the available services. A total of 25 separate interviews and casual observations coupled with informal conversations were conducted. As mentioned earlier, the interviewees were sent interview schedules one month prior to their interview date. The interviews were very flexible and were carried out according to the interviewee’s availability. They were conducted on Tuesdays for their teachers and administrators and on Thursdays for the parents. As mentioned earlier, the interviews were conducted by the researcher and five of her/his personal assistants. The interview sessions were recorded on tape and in addition the most important information highlighted by the participants was noted. The researcher preferred using open-ended questions since he/she would be able to obtain extensive and complete information. The interview process was completed within a period of two weeks after which the questionnaires were all collected.

3.10.3 Documentary and electronic sources

There are some situations where the relevant information can only be found in publications like previously written research reports and also the internet. These sources help the researcher to gather basic background information about the research topic. The existing records and documents which relate to the topic under investigation often prove to be useful point of reference for a researcher. The researcher read and studied the existing written documents about autism authored by academicians, welfare organisations, and researchers related to the topic of study in this paper and in reference to Saudi Arabian case.

The researcher gathered most of the information through documentary sources, especially electronic journals and the internet. Official documents, such as curriculums drawn up by schools to help individuals with autism continue with their education after school, were also consulted. The researcher also studied reports in addition to employment files at work places to support this research. In addition, some information was also collected from printed books, newspapers and magazines. The documentary sources used mostly range from 1990 to present.

Documentary sources, both physical and electronic, provided the basic background information for the study. They helped the researcher design questionnaires, interview questions and schedules. However, this method was time consuming and expensive due to wide range of relevant documents on autism, which are available. Most of the available documents were outdated and the researcher could not fully rely on them.

3.11 Conclusion

As demonstrated in this chapter, the research methodology best suited for this study is qualitative, deductive one which uses both secondary and primary data. To collect primary data, the researcher opted for questionnaires and interview methods which are best suited for qualitative approach. In addition, the researcher consulted various documentary sources to come up with information to reinforce the primary data.  The next chapter will present the results of questionnaires handed to parents, teachers and administrators from both public schools and special education institutions with children under autism spectrum in Saudi Arabia. In addition, it will present the results of interviews conducted on parents, teachers and administrators from those institutions. Finally, the chapter will give an analysis of the study findings based on the results of questionnaires and interviews.

 

 

CHAPTER 4: DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION

4.1 Introduction

The results of this study are based on qualitative investigations of available support services for students with autism in education system in Saudi Arabia derived using questionnaires. The results are also based on the perceptions of parents, teachers and administrators on the effectiveness of the intervention services provided for such students. Before analysis and interpretation, the collected data was scanned to ensure that it conformed to standards of factual content and neutrality. This was done by collaborating with regional special education offices that pre-analysed and commented on the data collected.

The main aim of carrying out research is to come up with feasible findings regarding the research question.  This chapter presents the analysis and gives an interpretation of the data collected based on the objectives and research questions with a view to fulfilling the aim and objectives of the study. First, the findings from the data collected from questionnaires, interviews and document analysis will be presented and discussed. This chapter will then make an interpretation of the research findings as they relate to the research project.

4.2 Discussion of the results

As earlier noted, the questionnaires were distributed to heads of administrations for public schools and special education institutes, following which they distributed them to the teachers and administrators at random. Also the researcher was briefly informed that the questionnaires addressed to parents were all distributed to parents during the visiting day of the children with autism and this was done at random too. The researcher sent and requested completion of a total of 32 questionnaires by parents, teachers and administrators of students with autism. A period of one month was set for the completion of the questionnaires before the process of collecting them started. After one month was over, the researcher started the process of collection of the questionnaires which was done parallel with the conduction of interviews. The interviews targeted the respondents who also participated in completion of questionnaires. The researcher opted to engage the same respondents since it would make his/her work easier and also the respondents would have adequately familiarised with the topic and consequently be enable to give more informed answers. The process of collection and conduction of interviews involved the researcher and five of his/her personal assistants and it took a period of two weeks to complete.

By the end of two weeks period, 28 questionnaires had been collected. 20 of them were returned by teacher and administrators while 8 were returned by parents of students with autism. However, 2 of the questionnaires returned by the parents and 1 by a teacher were rejected and excluded from the study as they were incomplete. Therefore, only 25 out of 31 questionnaires were taken as the final sample of study. Regarding the interviews, the researcher targeted a total of 31 respondents. Out of those, the researcher and his/her personal representatives managed to interview only 18 of them. Only four parents of children with autism who received their education in the institutions visited were interviewed. On the other hand, the research process managed to gather information from 14 teachers and administrators using interviews.

Below is the summary of participation by the respondents

 

Table 1: Questionnaires issued and returned

Respondent Questionnaires Issued Questionnaires Returned Percentage (%)
Parents 11 6 55
Administrators/teachers 21 19 90
Total 32 25 78

 

Table 2: Interviews conducted

Respondent Interviews Targeted Interviews conducted Percentage (%)
Parents 11 4 36
Administrators/teachers 21 14 67
Total 32 18 56

 

4.3 Demographic Profile of the Study Population

The questionnaires were based on gender and completed accordingly. Of the 25 respondents who were interviewed, 17 were female and 8 were male. Of the 17 female participants, 4 were parents 10 teachers and 3 administrators. On the other hand, the 8 male respondents comprised of 2 parents, 4 teachers and 2 administrators. The figure below represents a summary of the participant’s demographic profile.

 

Table 3: Subject demographics

Respondent Male Female Total
Parents 2 4 6
Teachers 4 10 14
Administrators 2 3 5
Total 8 17 25

 

4.4 Personal planning services available for students with autism

This study investigated on availability of the following personal planning services for students with autism in both special education institutes and public schools based on the special needs of such students. Specifically, the researcher examined the existence of the following intervention services;

Medical and health services

Psychological services

Speech and language therapy services

Transportation services

Physical therapy

Social services

Occupational therapy

Counselling services

Recreational services

4.4.1 Psychological therapy services

Psychological therapy is one of the most essential intervention services that ought to be provided for individuals with autism. As discussed earlier in this paper, some individuals with autism have very strong speech and language skills. But they may have other problems such as depression and anxiety, all of which are of great concern. A trained psychologist working with individuals with autism is able to understand such issues and assist the individuals to overcome them, (support group programs 2010). Generally, psychologists work with high-functioning autism to treat issues such as depression, social anxiety and repetitive behaviour. They help individuals with autism to manage social interaction, self stimulation and understand social cues. Therefore, it was important for the researcher to examine the presence of psychological therapists in the institutions selected for study.

The data collected in this research using questionnaires showed that physical therapy services are available for students with autism in education system in Saudi Arabia. Out of 19 questionnaires received from teachers and administrators, 15 of them from 10 institutions selected for study showed that physiological therapists were available in those institutions. During interview sessions it was explained to the researcher that psychological professionals visited the institutions daily during particular hours when they provided their services to the students with autism. Only one public school did not have the services. But it was explained to the researcher that the school without the services had just started enrolling students with autism and other disabilities and thus, it was likely to gain the services in the future. At the same time, all the parents who were interviewed explained that psychological services were available for their children in the institutions of learning. They explained that the psychologists used to give them advice on how to assist their children deal with depressions and anxiety. In summary, the results of the study showed that psychological services are available in education system for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.4.2 Speech and language therapy services

As mentioned earlier in chapter one, almost all individuals with autism experience difficulties in language and speech. Usually, most of them at the lower end of the spectrum are non-verbal (Rogers & Dawson, 2009). For those who are very verbal (like those with Asperger Syndrome), they are likely to misunderstand and misuse language on regular basis. Certainly, such individuals can develop speech and language skills overtime especially with assistance from speech and language pathologists. Speech and language therapists assist such individuals to attain a wide range of skills such as non-verbal communication, conversation skills, speech pragmatics as well as conceptual skills. Speech and language pathologists use a wide range of tools and interventions such as speech curricula, toys and play-like therapy to formal tests, (Powell & Powell, 2010). In view of the importance of speech and language therapy, it was prudent for the researcher to evaluate the availability of those services in the education institutions selected for this study.

The researcher established that all the institutions examined collaborated with teachers and specialized professionals (speech and language pathologists) in identification of communication goals of the students with autism. The researcher learnt from parents, teachers and administrators that the speech and language pathologists assisted in assessing of communication skills and to provide suggestions and strategies tailored to meet the needs of the students with autism. The respondents said that they focused on developing communication and interaction in environments in which the children participated such as classrooms and playgrounds. The researcher learnt that the parents and teachers of the students with autism often used sentences to talk to those students. They aimed at communicating to the children with autism as well as trying to modelling their speech. Some of the teachers interviewed explained further that they used appropriate vocabulary for each student with autism based of their comprehension capability. For example, the researcher was advised that they chose familiar, concrete, and specific words and make as many repetitions as necessary for students with more severe communication problems. In addition, the teachers and administrators claimed that they used simple, clear and concise language while teaching the students with autism. They avoided the use of language that would confuse students with communication difficulties such as difficult figures of speech, irony and sarcasm.

The results of questionnaires returned by parents, teachers and administrators indicated that communication therapy was available for students with autism in both public schools and special education institutes in Saudi Arabia. All teachers and administrators checked the box indicating that speech and language services were available. In addition, all questionnaires received from parents indicated that those services were available for their children with autism in education institutions.  During the interview, all the respondents interviewed confirmed that these services were available. While teaching the students with autism, the teachers explained that they allowed time for them to process information. They explained that they talked slowly and posed between words while teaching those students. According to the teachers, the pace of speech when addressing students with autism depended on the ability of the individual student to comprehend.

The researcher also learnt during the interviews that all the institutions selected for the purpose of study employed the use of visual approaches to teach children with autism. According to teachers and administrators, this was largely to target students with autism who had difficulties in processing language and those who required extra time to learn. Also, they focussed on the students with autism who experienced difficulties in attending relevant information. The teachers explained that the approach assisted in enabling the students with autism to focus on the message. The researcher also learnt that the visual aids and symbols used during teaching of the students ranged from simple and concrete to abstract. It was explained to the researcher that the continuum moved from real object to facsimile colour picture, colour photograph, line drawing, black and white picture, and finally to graphic symbol and written language. For the students with autism who experienced severe problems with language, the teachers and trainers used simple and concrete objects. On the other hand, they used more abstract and complex objects were used for the students with minor difficulties. In short, the researcher established that the visual aids and symbols were applied depending on each individual with autism’s level of comprehension.

The researcher learnt that visual aids were used in organizing the student’s activities such as daily schedules, mini-schedules, calendars, activity checklist and others. Many of the teachers and administrators explained that they employed visual display of class assignments and file cards which had specific directions and tasks. They also displayed written instructions for learning new information. The researcher learnt that those displays assisted the students with autism in understanding the organization of the environment around them. The researcher established that most of these institutions did not rely on oral approaches of teaching the students with autism. It was explained to the researcher and his/her assistants that oral information was likely to be transient, meaning that the message would not be available to the students afterwards. In contrast, the students could use visual aids for as long as they needed to process information. The teachers and administrators explained that they also used visual aids to aid in comprehension of oral speech. Relevant objects, pictures and other visual supports were used to accompany spoken language which helped in enhancing comprehension, as the researcher learnt. In addition those objects helped to increase student’s attention. I summary, the findings of this study show that language and speech therapy services are available in education system for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.4.3 Physical therapy

As explained earlier, individuals with autism cannot be generally termed physically disabled, though some of them may have low muscle tone making it difficult for them to walk or sit for long periods. However, almost all of them do have physical limitations. In this regard, children with autism generally need physical therapy services, (House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, 2009). These Physical services are provided by physical therapists trained to work with such people to build or rebuild strength, mobility and motor skills. It was thus essential for the researcher to examine the availability of such services as one of the intervention strategies for the unique needs of students with autism in this study.

The questionnaires received from the parents, teachers and administrators showed that physical therapy services were available for students with autism in education system in Saudi Arabia. 15 out of 19 teachers and administrators who completed questionnaires indicated that physical therapists were available. The 4 who indicated opposite were from two institutions; both of which were public schools. This indicated that out of the 11 institutions selected for study, only two did not have physical therapy services. At the same time, 5 questionnaires out of 6 that were completed by parents supported that fact. During the interviews, the researcher confirmed and solicited more information regarding the availability of physical therapy services in the institutions selected.

The researcher learnt from parents, teachers and administrators that physical therapy was included in early intervention programs offered by public schools and special education institutes selected for study. In most special education institutes, physical therapists were available throughout the day while in public schools, they were available during particular hours of the day. In those institutions, physical therapists pulled children with autism out to work with them one-on-one to typical schools settings such as gym class in order to support them in real life situations. The physical therapists in public schools created groups that included both students with autism and typical students to work on social aspects of social life as some of the teachers who were interview explained. The researcher learnt that the physical therapists worked on various skills such as kicking, skipping, throwing and catching, all of which are important in physical development social engagement in sports as well as recess and general play. All the respondents who were interviewed explained that physical therapists in the institutions where they were available worked together with parents, teachers and administrators to provide tools for physical skills. For instance, the parents interviewed indicated that the physical therapists had taught them some techniques for helping their children such as build coordination, muscle strength and skills.

4.4.4 Social therapy services

In earlier chapters, it has been was demonstrated that most individuals on the autism spectrum experience difficulties in social interaction. Evidently, most of them seem to have problems with “mind reading”. This means that they are usually unable to guess what other people might be thinking like typical individuals do, (Gabriels, & Hill, 2007). Normal individuals are able to make guesses through observation of both tone and body language and make valid conclusions from that. For individuals on autism spectrum, they can only do so with help and training. The “mind blindness” with individuals on autism spectrum can make them to make social bladders that may lead to many problems. Notably, they usually do so without knowing. This explains why many of them may engage in acts that hurt feelings of other people or ask inappropriate questions. Most of them are thus characterized as being hostile persons who like teasing, bullying and to live in isolation. But as Hollander, et al (2010) explains, it is possible to help and train such individuals and eventually reduce the intensity of social problems that they encounter. It is for this reason that the researcher considered to investigate presence of social therapy as be one of the important intervention strategies to support students with autism.

Social therapy services are provided by social therapists. These are social workers adequately trained and specialize in assisting individuals with autism to develop social interaction skills, (Gerhardt, P. 2007). They focus on basic skills such as making eye contact ranging to more complex ands subtle skills such as asking for date. In schools settings, social skills therapy involves group activities such as games and conversations, all of which help in development of peers. In short, such skills are very important in assisting persons on autism spectrum to develop vital interaction skills.

In this research study, it was established that social services were not are rarely available for individuals with autism in education system. The questionnaires submitted to the researcher showed that many of the respondents indicated that social services were available in those institutions. Remarkably, only 4 of the respondents indicated that social therapy services were not in place. However, the information gathered using interviews was contrasting necessitating changes which were made during interview. The researcher established that most of the respondents had no clear understanding of what constituted social services. During interview, the researcher and his/her assistants approached the respondents by introducing to them to the activities that constitute social services. Generally, all teachers and administrators from public schools who were interviewed were quick to point out that such services were not available. Interestingly, most of them did have prior-knowledge of what social services meant. Some of them admitted that before the interview, they would not differentiate social services from physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychological therapy services. In 2 special education institutions, the researcher established that 2 teachers and 1 administrator were aware of the impact of social therapy services for individuals with autism. In fact, the two teachers explained that they constantly offered social therapy services to the students. Teachers and administrators from the rest of special education institutions claimed that the services were not available. All respondents who were interviewed explained that there were not specialists in social therapy services who specifically dealt with social skills in their institutions. All of the parents who were interviewed did not understand what social services was all about until the researcher or his/her any of assistant briefed them. In short, the findings of this study clearly indicated that social services are rare in education institutions for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.4.5 Occupational therapy services

It was established earlier that individuals on autism spectrum often lack some of the basic social and personal skills required for independent living. Occupational therapy is a service that helps to develop effective techniques to for working with the needs of such individuals and enhance independent living, (Ernsperger, L 2003). Occupational therapists assist individuals to develop skills that are applicable in various jobs, (Great Britain: National Audit Office, 2009). They devise strategies that are essential for individuals with autism to help them during transition from one setting one person to another, from one setting to another and from one life phase to another. Therefore, the researcher found out that occupational therapy is a quite important method of intervention to the special needs of students with autism.

In this research, it was realised that occupational therapy services were rare in the institutions that were selected for study. Most of the respondents clearly understood the meaning of “occupational therapy” as the researcher established during interview sessions. The questionnaires received from respondents showed that all of the teachers and administrators from public schools and special education institutes selected for study indicated that occupational therapy services was not available. They further added that they had not sought services of occupational therapists there before. 2 of the parents of children with autism who were interviewed claimed not to understand what “occupational therapy” meant. But after the meaning was explained to them they said that they had not seen such services being provided for their children. That claim was similar to the one that was given by the parents who had a prior-understanding of the meaning of the phrase. In summary, the above findings showed that occupational therapy is not available for individuals with autism in education system for students with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.4.6 Medical and health services

As established earlier, many individuals with autism experience constant health problems that require medical interventions, Global autism collaboration, (2011). As such, individuals with autism who experience health require medical services more than any other service. In this regard, schools with students with autism are obliged to provide on-going health services for them. Therefore, the researcher concluded that this was a vital service that needed to be given focus while studying the intervention services available for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia.

The data collected in this research using both questionnaires and interviews showed that medical services are available for individuals with autism in education system in Saudi Arabia. All of the questionnaires completed by parents, teachers and administrators showed that school medical services were available both in public schools and inn special education institutions in Saudi Arabia. According to the teachers and administrators from public schools who were interviewed, health officers were available every day from morning until evening. In special education institutions, health workers were available throughout with many of them having residential within the institutions. The researcher learnt that the ministry of education of Saudi Arabia had provided licensed physicians to diagnose students’ disabilities including those with autism. According to the respondents, the health officers determined the extent of needs for special education for the children with autism and the type and extent of related services that such students would require. The respondents explained further that medical treatment for the students with autism depended on severity of disability. The health officers were also responsible for prescribing special diets, supplements and alternative treatments. Additionally, the researcher established that all teachers in special education institutes had received minimal training to provide treatment services to students to cases that were not severe. The training mainly involved how to deal with emergency cases. In public schools, only 4 of the teachers and administrators whom were interviewed explained that they gone through any such training.

4.4.7 Transportation services

The results derived from both questionnaires showed that transportation services were available to the eligible students with autism in the institutions selected for this study. All respondents who were interviewed supported the fact that transportation services were provided for students who needed special assistance. According to the respondents, transportation services were offered in regard to level of disability or location of school relative to home of the students. As such, it was clear to the researcher that not all students with autism were eligible for those services. However, as some parents explained, many of the students with autism who were not illegible used the same transportation that the students with serious disabilities used when going to school. But for those students with severe disabilities, the teachers who were interviewed explained to the researcher that they had to be provided with transport to and from schools and between schools. Also, the schools provided travel services in and around school buildings to students with severe disabilities.

The researcher also found out that 6 of the special institutions examined provided special equipments such as lifts, lamps and special or adapted buses. In 2 of the institutes, it was explained to the researcher that they provided special transportation for students with autism in case of need. Also, the researcher established that most of the school systems had written guidelines to assist in making decisions about transportation services consistent with each student on autism spectrum. According to the parents who were interviewed, they did not assume any of the costs of transportation services provided for their children with autism. The researcher was advised by some of the teachers who were interviewed that the transportation services were being funded by the ministry of education of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, this explains the fact that transportation services are available in education system for individual with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.4.8 Counselling services

As explained earlier, counselling is an important support service for students with autism. This service helps individuals with autism in developing their career awareness, improve their behavioural adjustment and control skills and improve their understanding of self.  In turn, this helps people with autism to be able to participate better in their educational program, (Buron, (2008). Therefore, the counselling is a very important intervention strategy to the special needs of individuals with autism. Based on this fact, the researcher decided to examine the availability of counselling services as part of personal planning in education system for individuals with autism and particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Based on the results of the questionnaires that were completed and were received by the researcher, counselling services are available in education system for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia. Out of the 11 institutions that were selected for study, only 2 public schools did not have counselling services. But the administrators from both of these schools explained that the process of establishing counselling programs was in place. In the schools where councillors were available, the researcher learnt from the teachers that they worked together with teachers and parents to provide counselling services mentioned earlier. In addition to those councillors, the school councillors were responsible in identification of students who were eligible for special education. According to some of the administrators who were interviewed, the councillors also provided advice regarding student’s effective needs, level of functioning and the appropriateness of the IEP. In addition, the councillors provided students with guidance and counselling in keeping with the IEP. Finally, the researcher established that the councillors provided counselling services for parents of the students with autism. The councillors provided assistant to the parents to understand the special needs and development of their children. Therefore, the data obtained in this research shows that counselling services are available in education system for children with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.4.9 Recreational therapy

In the earlier chapters, it has been established that autism is largely a social-communication disorder. Many of the individuals with autism experience problems when relating with others in ordinary ways, especially with peers (McGill-Franzen, A., (2009).  Recreation is a very helpful tool to in assisting such children to interact with typical children effectively. For instance, play can be very effective in assisting children with autism to explore their feelings, their relationships with parents, siblings and peers as well as their relationship with the surrounding environment. Specifically, recreational therapy is essential in improving socialization skills, language development, physical, cognitive and eye-hand coordination. To this end, recreational therapy is an important component of personal planning for individual with autism. Consequently, the researcher included this service in his/her study and examined its availability in education institutions for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia.

The research findings obtained through questionnaires showed that all institutions selected for this study had recreation therapy services. As such, all the respondents who completed and returned questionnaires indicated that the service was available in those institutions. In addition, all parents, teachers and administrators of students with autism supported the fact that recreation services were available. This was also evident to the researcher through availability of recreational facilities such as play kits and ply grounds for children with disabilities. In addition, the researcher established that all of the institutions that were visited for the purpose of study had set time for recreation in their timetables. Moreover, all of those institutions had recreational therapists some of whom were also the teachers of those students but who had received training in recreation therapy. According to the teachers who were interviewed, the work of recreational therapists in those institutions was to asses the capacities and functions of student’s leisure and to provide remedy to the difficulties that limited the involvement of such students in leisure activities. Additionally, they provided leisure education for learning the skills attitudes and knowledge related to leisure involvement. Finally, the researcher learnt from the respondents that recreational therapists helped the students with autism to participate in recreation based on individual need of such students. Therefore, the researcher concluded from the findings that recreational therapy was available in education system for individuals with autism in Saudi Arabia.

4.5 Summary of findings

The real question to ask at this point and after analysing and discussing the results of the survey questionnaires and interviews that were conducted is what the previous information says regarding the research question. In other words, what answers to the research question can be derived from both the survey and the literature reviewed?

The research question was: What personal planning services are available for students with autism in education system for students with autism? The literature reviewed the findings of the survey questionnaires and interviews conducted in this study provide good indication of the answer to the research question. According to both the primary and secondary data, the intervention services available in education system to support individuals with autism are:

  • Medical and health therapy services
  • Psychological therapy services
  • Speech and language therapy services
  • Transportation services
  • Physical therapy services
  • Counselling services
  • Recreational therapy services

On the other hand, vital services such as social therapy and occupational therapy are rare in education system for individuals with autism.

This means that children with autism who experience health problems are able to access adequate medical treatment in virtually all education institutions (both public schools and special education institutions). Similarly, the special needs of the individuals with autism necessitating them to require support to overcome behavioural problems such as anxiety, depression and repetitive behaviour are addressed in education system. This is has been confirmed through the data collected for this study indicating that psychological therapists are available in many of the institutions selected for study. Additionally, this research study has clearly demonstrated that Speech and language therapy services are available in many education institutions to address communication difficulties experienced by most of individuals under autism spectrum.

Furthermore, this study has established that many education institutions with children on autism spectrum provide transport services especially to those with severe disabilities. In addition, free travel services are offered for students whose homes are far from their schools. Also, the majority of public and special education institutes with students on autism spectrum provide physical therapy services. These services are aimed at addressing physical limitations of most individuals with autism such as low muscle tone and gross motor delay. Additionally, counselling services are available in most institutions to assist students with autism in developing their career awareness, improve their behavioural adjustment and control skills and understanding of self. Finally, this study has clearly demonstrated that recreation therapy services are available in education system for individuals with autism. The objectives of these services is to enhance improvement of socialization skills, language development, physical, cognitive and eye-hand coordination for the students with autism.

On the other hand, this study has established that certain services which are vital in addressing the unique needs of individuals with autism are not available in many education institutions. The researcher established that such individuals require social therapy services to assist them in developing vital interaction skills such as eye contact and “mind reading”. These skills would enable such students to interact well with their peers but as this study demonstrated, these services are rare education institutions for those students. Similarly, this study examined that occupational services are unavailable in both public schools and special education institutions.  Such services would be important in enhancing basic social and personal skills required for independent living and thereby prepare such students for jobs in future.

Therefore, on the basis of the findings derived in this research, the hypothesis of the study is valid:

  • The personal planning services available in education system for individuals with autism are psychological therapy, physical therapy, medical and health, speech and language therapy, school counselling and transportation while services such as social therapy and occupational therapy are rarely available.

However, on top of the intervention services addressed in the hypothesis, the researcher established that recreational therapy services are also available in education institutions for individuals with autism.

4.6 Conclusion

As it may be determined from the current chapter, the results of the survey questionnaires and interviews exposed the key intervention services that are available in education system for individuals with autism. Additionally, some of the most important services but which are unavailable are addressed. As it has been demonstrated, the findings of both the primary and secondary data in this study provided responses for the research question and hypothesis. The next chapter will discuss the conclusions of the study, the limitations and provide recommendations regarding the findings of this study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

5.1 Introduction

This chapter presents a summary of the findings, followed by a brief discussion of the results of the study in relation to the study objectives and the research question. This chapter will also present specific conclusions based on the analysis of data from chapter 4. The chapter will then provide a brief discussion of limitations encountered by the researcher during the study. This will be followed by recommendations and future areas of research.

5.2 Conclusion

Previous studies of availability of personal planning in education system for individuals with autism have established that various support services are available such as Medical and health services Psychological services, Speech and language therapy, physical therapy, Transportation and Counselling services are all available and particularly in reference to Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, earlier researchers found out very that important services such as Social services and Occupational therapy services are not available in many education institutions in Saudi Arabia, (Al-Quraini, 2007). This study contributes effectively to the body of scholarly knowledge by providing new findings that that specifically outlines the key services that constitute personal planning for individuals with autism and which are available for them in the education system.

In order to investigate the nature of availability of personal planning in education system for individuals on autism spectrum, the study proposed one research question and one research hypothesis. The research question is: What personal planning s services are available for students with autism in education system for students with autism in Saudi Arabia? The study hypothesis is: The personal planning services available in education system for individuals with autism are psychological therapy, medical and health, speech and language therapy, school counselling and transportation while services such as social therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy are rarely available. The research findings may be summarized as validation of the stated hypothesis.

To reiterate these findings in a more concise format, it can be said that this study offered an insight into the available personal planning in education system for individuals with autism in general. By analysing the availability of intervention services for those students in both public and special education institutes in Saudi Arabia, this study found Psychological therapy, Speech and language therapy, Transportation, physical therapy, Recreational therapy and Counselling services are available. At the same time, the study found out that important support services for individuals on autism spectrum such as Social services and Occupational therapy are not available.

Proceeding from the above, it is important to emphasize that this study mainly derived its findings regarding availability of personal planning in education system for individuals with autism from the literature review. Within this context, the primary data served the purpose of testing the support services that constitute personal planning in the sense of exploring from the view point of parents, teachers and administrators and evaluate the institutions selected for this study from the perspectives of the intervention services available. But as it has been demonstrated in the findings of this study, the researcher found recreational services to be available on top of those derived from the review literature. It was further established that the services proposed in the review literature are valid and it was discovered that there is need for inclusion of the services that were found to be rarely available in the education system.

5.3 Assumptions and limitations

There are several limitations and assumptions that relate to this study as explained earlier. First, the size of sample that was used for the purpose of this study was small and was limited to a few public schools and special education institutes located in few regions only in Saudi Arabia. In other words, there is no evidence that the sample used in this study is typical of the whole population of study. If the researcher was to do the same research or a similar research project, making a case study of a region, a municipality or a school would be a priority because coming up with a sample population was a long and very complicated process due to the large size of the population. Another limitation is the fact that the primary data using interviews for this study was collected at a particular point in time for each respondent. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the responses gathered would be indicative of the responses that would be given at another time. In addition, there is potential that other factors beyond the researcher’s control such as fatigue of participants, settings and time of day could influence the responses during interviews.

Another major challenge that the researcher faced was getting access to the different institutions that provided educational programmes for children with autism in Saudi Arabia. The administrators provided only limited time for the researcher to spend with individuals with autism and thus, the researcher did not have ample time to solicit much information from the students. This was contrary to the expectations of the researcher, because it had been planned that more time would be spent in an educational environment. Finally, the availability of current academic content on personal planning services available for children with autism in particular was minimal. The researcher relied more on primary data. More broad and open objectives could have delivered more concrete findings, conclusions and recommendations.

5.4 Recommendations

Many recommendations have been put forward to improve the already existing intervention programs available to support individuals with autism in schools. According to Turkington, and Anan (2007), many professionals in the area of autism have put forward many recommendations to improve delivery of services to individuals with autism especially to school-going children. Based on this, the researcher developed several action points to improve future autism interventions and recommends specific guidelines that must be followed to ensure successful and effective planning for educational programmes for individuals with autism:

  1. Parents, teachers and other people involved in the intervention programme must have a clear view of the desired outcomes of the action plan taken so that the context for the attainment of such outcomes is known before the plan is actually delivered to individuals with ASD
  2. Records of each individual with autism in a given region should be kept. More so, the methods used to treat several cases of autism should also be maintained so that, should a similar autistic disorder be diagnosed in another individual, then it will be easier to deal with it. Records will also help to determine the number of individuals with autism in a given region so that future plans to deal with the disorder can be put in place.
  3. Every individual with autism has unique and special needs, thus requiring a personal plan because of their unique patterns of learning. Personal planning is based on the principle that any individual can succeed despite a current impairment.
  4. All parties involved in the intervention programme for individuals with autism should have high and realistic expectations on education so as to allow the expectations of the individuals to be realised.
  5. All parties should also understand that the education of individuals with autism is completely different from education in the typical education system. The education system for individuals with autism should consist of seamless social, cognitive and communication transitions which should be closely monitored to ensure effectiveness.
  6. Individuals with autism, just like typical individuals, should be provided with all necessary supportive services and programmes, especially social and material, and appropriate environments to enable them achieve their potential.
  7. For successful and effective educational programmes for individuals with autism, parents and teachers must have the necessary important information about autistic disorders so as to devise the best intervention methods to use.
  8. Parents and teachers have different roles to play in the intervention programmes though their roles must converge at the end. Teachers must take the entire responsibility for developing the literacy, cognitive and numeracy skills of the individuals, while the parents must focus more on social and communication skills.
  9. The education system should have close ties with the professional community and the parents to gain access to community resources that may aid in training individuals with autism and creating a conducive environment that supports autistic individuals.
  10. Teachers and other professionals that are involved in training individuals with autism must have the required competencies and current knowledge on the trends in thinking regarding autistic disorders so that they can fully understand the educational requirements of individuals with autism.
  11. The education services extended to individuals with autism must be measurable and responsive to change. The services must also provide for evaluation so that loop holes can be identified and fixed.
  12. The diagnoses and tests to determine the presence and level of effect of autism should be carried out by qualified and specially trained professionals who can understand the needs of individuals with autism in relation to the general diagnostic standards.
  13. All parties involved in an intervention programme must ensure that the intervention strategies used meet the already known and anticipated needs of the individuals. The set of goals established should act as a guide to attain this.
  14. Parents, guardians and teachers should always work together
  15. Specialised trainers and teachers should hold close consultations with regular teachers to plan for complete integration of autistic individuals in the curriculum.
  16. Students’ progress should be monitored jointly among parents, regular teachers, and special teachers
  17. Regular students should be trained and given adequate information to understand special students and their needs.

The above are some of the action points that the research considers important in effecting any intervention programme. Additionally, the involvement and inclusion of individuals with autism in planning for and providing services to themselves should be adhered to. The individuals with ASDs should be provided with all the information they need to know about their progress and their anticipation future. If the individuals with autism are mainstreamed into regular classes with other typical students, they should only be allowed into classes that interest them and that correspond to their capabilities. For instance, individuals with autism who are handicapped should not be mainstreamed into physical education classes because it will not add any value to their intervention programme. An education programme will only benefit the students when the programme corresponds to their interests and strengths.

Individuals with autism should be provided with structured opportunities to socialise and interact with other typical students so that they can develop their own communication and social skills. This should be done by inviting typical students to special education programmes so that they can understand autism and learn to accept individuals with autism.

The services provided to students with autism can be improved by creating significant levels of awareness and knowledge of autism among service providers, employers, and other stakeholders in society. Society should be made aware of the need to improve the quality of life of individuals with autism through their careers and of other important support.  Existing information regarding causes of and intervention in autistic disorders should be used when providing appropriate services to individuals with autism. Since many members of staff working in specialised schools and health centres for autism have insufficient knowledge and awareness regarding autistic disorders, governing bodies should provide adequate and professional training to all staff that deal with individual with autism both directly and indirectly. Educational bodies should develop autism content in educational curriculums and provide insight to teachers on autism.

Given the fact that employment rates for individuals with autism are low and the few chances that are provided by employers do not meet their career needs, governing bodies should ensure that job allowances set for individuals with autism are extended to them only. This can be done through a feasibility study carried out by collecting data to establish whether applicants for Job Seekers Allowance are truly autistic. Welfare associations should also partner with other organisations to sensitise employer organisations about the benefits of employing individuals with autism. Welfare associations should collaborate with relevant governing bodies such as ministries of health to draw up strategic plans for autism in their country or region. Such strategies should provide procedural guidelines on the services available and the treatment of autism and on subsequent transition programmes for the individuals into adulthood.

Thus, the educational goal for supportive programmes for individuals with autism has been to develop academic and cognitive skills, support language, and communication development, and encourage behaviour acceptable to society (Danya International Inc. and Organisation for Autism Research Inc. 2004). As the individuals grow older, supplementary skills are added to their lessons to prepare    skills and vocational training in preparation for an independent life.

 

5.5 Personal Achievements

As it has been demonstrated, this study examines in details some of the personal planning services that are available in public schools and special education institutions to complement the efforts of the teachers and trainers in incorporating students with autism with the typical students. It examines the special needs of such students and sufficiently explores the importance of the personal planning services to such students. As such, the study has moved the researcher further in understanding the needs of individuals under autism spectrum and provided an insight on how interact with them. In addition, the study has helped the researcher to grow professionally in his/her line of research in dealing with issues regarding individuals with disabilities. The study is also intended to help all teachers and trainers of students with autism who are about to implement or improve their practices in dealing with individuals with the needs of such students. Consequently, the researcher has an opportunity in this study to contribute effectively in increase awareness of the special needs needed for individuals with autism. As such, the ideas brought out in this study can be put into consideration during future development of programmes to assist students with autism. Lastly, this study has enabled the researcher to gain essential experience in conducting research, which he/she can effectively apply in future in other areas of study. This has been achieved through thorough scrutiny of recent information materials that discuss autism and education and also the use of first-hand data collected through interviews and questionnaires in this study.

5.6 Future areas of research

The results of the study indicate that though research has been conducted in this area of study, there is need for more research in relation to the availability of personal planning in education system for individuals with autism. Thus, this study provides insights to contribute to future development of this line of research. The instruments used for this study need to be subjected to more statistical tests in order to come up with more robust and reliable data. The instruments could be further refined to capture data the in problem area mentioned more closely. Replication of this study using larger samples and a border geographical base is suggested for close-validation purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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