Communication strategies used by specialised preschool teachers for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in South Africa.
Aim and Background: The study aimed at expanding our understanding of the communication strategies used by teachers of pre-schoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in Johannesburg, South Africa. By describing the use of current practices, our study aimed to provide recommendations for the development of support in the classroom, including Allied Health services. Methods: Through homogeneous purpose sampling, five qualified teachers were recruited from public and private pre-schools in Johannesburg. The data were gathered through semi-structured qualitative interviews, combined with observations from the classroom. A qualitative descriptive design, with the combination of both data sets and thematic analysis were used. Results: One overarching theme emerged from the data: Diversity. With three sub-themes: range of communication strategies, communication difficulties, and feelings and perceptions related to interacting with children with ASD. Diversity was prominently displayed in the children’s communication and needs, in the successful use of multi-modal communication strategies used by teachers and in the teachers’ feelings and perceptions related to the children. Teachers’ skills and comfort level in communicating with children with diverse needs, is foundational to successful communication and learning. Allied Health support for teachers in classrooms and workforce strategies for teachers will assist in supporting teachers of young children in classrooms.
Key Words: autism spectrum disorder, communication strategies, teachers, pre-schoolers
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