Exploring primary teachers' understanding of, and practices in, inclusive education with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Saudi Arabia: a case study of a Tatweer school

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ABDULMALIK MOHAMMED SALEH ALKHUNINI
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Saudi Digital Library
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In the last few decades, as the number of individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has risen globally, the matter of how to educate students with ASD has gained increased attention. Inclusive education has become popular in many countries, as it recognises that all students, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), have a right to be educated in the general education classroom. The Tatweer project, introduced in Saudi Arabia, promoted further changes to the public education of those with SEND, seeking to reform public education and improve the quality of education, including special education students. Consequently, in 2016, Saudi Arabia established the first six public schools in the country to implement a fully inclusive education approach. This interpretive case study explores teachers’ understanding and the practices involved in this new implementation of inclusive education. It specifically explores the factors influencing the practices with regard to students with ASD in one of the six primary-level inclusive education schools in the Saudi educational context. The data was collected through document review, direct and indirect observation, and semi-structured interviews with general education teachers and special education teachers and other SEND staff members. The findings obtained from the qualitative data via a thematic analysis demonstrate that teachers differ in their understandings of inclusion. The general education teachers described it as integration in the classroom, and lack understanding of disability and ASD, which affects their classroom practice. This contrasts with the special education teachers, who demonstrated a better awareness of inclusive education and ASD but lacked the means to implement their knowledge in practice. This study further demonstrates the factors affecting the implementation of inclusive education in the Saudi context, including lack of use of the new guidelines concerning inclusive education, lack of collaboration, and lack of teaching assistants. The thesis concludes by identifying the factors affecting implementation, along with the related implications and practical recommendations, primarily targeting stakeholders and the Ministry of Education, and recommending that each pay considerable attention to the issues of teachers’ understanding and knowledge of inclusive education, and to the related training and leadership requirements.
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