Professional Culture of a Defectologist in Psychological and Pedagogical Support and Education of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Abstract

Objectives. An important professional competence of a defectologist is knowledge of scientific and methodological approaches in the education of children with autism spectrum disorders. It is also important to have practical skills in working with these children. Both allow you to build the process of correctional work and apply an individual approach. This determines the professional culture of the defectologist accompanied by children with ASD. The article discusses approaches to the formation of professional culture of future defectologists at the stage of implementation of the basic educational training program in the field of education, upbringing and support of students with autism spectrum disorder.

Methods. The content of the discipline “Practicum: The initial stage of work with an autistic spectrum child” is presented. In the formation of professional and personal competencies of future specialists working with children with ASD, it is proposed to use problem-oriented, interactive teaching methods: specific learning situations.

Results. The developed training discipline “Practicum: The initial stage of work with an autistic spectrum child” includes classes on the formation of practical competences in teaching and supporting children with ASD. The classes simulate learning conditions and situations that allow students to practice specific practical ways and techniques of working with children and are crucial for the formation of professional culture in the process of preparing students-defectologists to work with children with ASD.

Conclusions. It is important in the formation of the professional culture of a defectologist to reflect on the experience of difficulties in working with children with autism spectrum disorders.

General Information

Keywords: autism spectrum disorders; professional culture of a defectologist; special (defectological) education; psychological and pedagogical support

Journal rubric: Expert opinion

Article type: scientific article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.17759/autdd.2023210307

Received: 17.08.2023

Accepted:

For citation: Isaeva T.N. Professional Culture of a Defectologist in Psychological and Pedagogical Support and Education of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autizm i narusheniya razvitiya = Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2023. Vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 62–69. DOI: 10.17759/autdd.2023210307.

Full text

Introduction

A teacher’s professional culture is conditioned, on the one hand, by the system of his or her personal and professional qualities and, on the other hand, by the specifics of his or her professional activity. When supporting children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the specificity of teachers’ activities is determined by the peculiarities of children’s development: the presence of a wide variety of clinical manifestations and mental states. Professional culture, including that of a teacher, is not created by itself, but is formed in the totality of learning the ways and technologies of pedagogical activity, in developing the qualities of a personality oriented to universal and cultural values [7; 8; 23; 24; 25].

The training of teachers-defectologists for the education and psychological and pedagogical support of students with autism spectrum disorders is an area of special defectological education that is in demand in practice [1; 11]. To date, the key components of the content of educational programmes of higher education (bachelor’s and master’s degrees) for training future teachers-defectologists for children with ASD have not been fully defined. The emerging difficulties are associated with a number of reasons known to specialists and parents, such as: the paucity of primarily domestic scientific research aimed at substantiating the programme and methodological support for the processes of upbringing, education, and support of children of different age groups with autism spectrum disorders, and their diagnosis [17].

At the same time, foreign intervention technologies with proven effectiveness (applied behaviour analysis, TEACCH programme, DIR concept (Floortime methodology), sensory integration methods, etc.) are widely used in work with children with autism in Russia. [12]. Their use in the practice of working with children with autism is supported by parent communities and many certified specialists.

The introduction in Russia of the Federal State Educational Standard of the initial general education of students with disabilities influences the intensification of efforts of professional and parental communities in generalising the already gained practical experience in providing social correction and pedagogical assistance to children with autism spectrum disorders [8; 9; 11; 16]. There is a tendency not only to directly use foreign programmes and approaches, but also to adapt them in the conditions of domestic education [17].

Much of the above requires technical substantiation, which creates certain difficulties in developing educational programmes for training defectology specialists to work with children with ASD [6; 17]. However, following the discussed concepts of developing the main educational programme of training in psychological and pedagogical support of students with ASD, the future specialist should be oriented in the abundance of common and generally accepted in practice behavioural, psychological and educational interventions [1; 3; 4; 18; 21; 26]. This provision refers to a teacher-defectologist’s professional competences.

In order to develop teachers-defectologists’ professional competencies in the educational programme «Education and psychological and pedagogical support for students with autism spectrum disorders» at the undergraduate level, implemented from 2023 at the Institute of Childhood of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, the second year of study includes the discipline «Practicum: The initial stage of work with an autistic spectrum child».

Methods and Techniques

Discussing the conceptual approaches to the development and construction of a programme for training defectologists for teaching and supporting students with ASD and taking into account the transformational processes in the education system, including special education, we come to understand that their impact on the social, personal and professional position of a defectologist cannot be ignored. To be an effective specialist is not only to possess at a high level pedagogical technologies of teaching, education, correction, but also to have certain qualities and abilities of personality [2; 6; 7; 19]. In the case when we refer to the competences of a specialist for working with children on the autism spectrum, the outlined benchmarks become especially important. Students entering the Bachelor’s programme are most often graduates of secondary schools and colleges. They are young people who have no experience of working with children with autism spectrum disorders, and their first acquaintance with them can be crucial for their future professional work.

In this regard, building the logic of forming professional competences, we come to understand the strengthening of value orientations as an axiological component of the system of professional training and professional culture of future specialists in teaching and supporting children with ASD. The effectiveness of defectologists’ training for work with children with ASD is largely determined by students’ social and personal readiness to accept and solve the whole range of tasks and requirements necessary for adaptation and socialisation of persons with autism spectrum disorders, in addition to the professional competence [3; 8; 10; 20].

All these factors determined the range of tasks that are solved during the implementation of the training discipline «Practicum: The initial stage of work with an autistic spectrum child».

We cannot ignore the fact that, on the one hand, the theoretical and methodological justification of conceptual approaches to the basic components of the programme of defectologists’ professional training in working with children on the autism spectrum in our country is still under development, and, on the other hand, all the variety of intervention technologies that have proven their effectiveness and are used in practice by specialists [2; 6; 17; 22].

This determines the content of this discipline, which includes and addresses many known approaches and methods of working with children with ASD. The content of the discipline is based on identifying specific features in the symptomatology of autistic disorders: social interaction, behaviour and communication. Attention is paid to the consideration of ways of overcoming the children’s difficulties in different methodological schools: in the emotional and semantic approach, in applied behavioural analysis, in the concept of DIR (Floortime Methodology), etc. A good understanding of the concept of autism is important for the future specialist. It is important for a future specialist to become familiar with the existing range of modern methods of working with children with ASD at the university level and to become confident in the choice of particular instruments of influence in each particular case of work with children. The student is not offered an in-depth study of each individual scientific school and he/she does not receive specialisation in a particular direction, but he/she learns “initial practical skills for work with children with autism” [17, p. 81].

It is very important to take into account the characteristics of the initial period of adaptation of children with ASD in an educational setting: its duration, the organisation and structure of the environment, the organisation of behaviour and communication, the elimination of developmental imbalances — when it is a group or a class — and tutor support. The content of the discipline includes the following sections (Table 1). The goals of the discipline, aimed at mastering by students the necessary competencies for the implementation of correctional and educational programmes, tasks of psychological and pedagogical support of children with ASD, cannot be achieved without the use of problem-oriented interactive teaching methods in the process of professional training, namely: specific learning situations [4; 5; 13; 15].

A specific learning situation related to organising educational activities with students is considered as a model of a real learning situation, the purpose of which is to involve the student in the direct process of working between the specialist and the child. During such sessions all participants discuss various cases from practice, consider and determine the most appropriate methods of helping a child with ASD.

By analysing and discussing specific practical situations, such as the results of observations of the work of specialists in educational organisations and/ or watching video clips of classes, students have the opportunity to develop such important qualities for a speech pathologist as the ability to make decisions in non-standard situations of interaction with a child with autism, to be flexible and predictable at the same time, to be reflective, to share the areas of responsibility between themselves and the child, to be tolerant of any manifestations of the learner, to understand him/ her and to share his/her views and concerns with the child In this regard, it is very important “to build interactive work with students and the development of their professional competences according to the principle of “soft through hard” and “hard through soft” — when the resource of the academic discipline acts as a mandatory field for the development of both subject and flexible skills” [14, p. 104]. [14, c. 104].

Students’ work with specific learning situations can have the following sequence and be organised in four stages (Table 2).

The phenomenological stage is aimed at developing students’ ability to observe and describe the situation of interaction between a professional and a child in an unbiased and non-judgemental way (good/bad; liked/ disliked). The description should be detailed and not contain any conclusion. The student makes notes in an observation diary, which he/she refers to in subsequent stages of work with the learning situation.

At the analytical stage, during the group discussion, the results of students’ individual observations are recorded in a common table. In the description it is important to highlight the commonalities, which allows everyone to confirm the accuracy of the observations and objectify the method used in working with a child with ASD. Students continue writing in the observation diary, recording analyses results.

Table 1

Content of the discipline «Practicum: The initial stage of work with an autistic spectrum child» 

Name of discipline section

Summary

1

Adaptation period at the initial stage of education of children with ASD

Difficulties in entering the social environment of an educational organisation for children with ASD. Developmental and behavioural approaches in correction and pedagogical work with children with ASD. Types of interventions. Organisation of educational environment. The tutor’s role in the organisation of education of children with ASD in an educational organisation.

2

Organisation and content of the adaptation period for preschool and school-age children with ASD

Conditions, tasks, stages of the adaptation period, their content. Algorithm of the child’s adaptation period. Diagnostic sessions: directions, content, evaluation and success criteria.

3

Accompaniment practicums

Practice of directed observation.

Practice of describing, analysing and evaluating directed observation results. Practice of designing and drawing up an individual development programme. Practice of including and accompanying the child in individual/group sessions. Practice of playful methods of work.

Practice of social interaction and co-operation with the child. Practice of forming the basics of learning behaviour.

Practice of verbal and non-verbal communication. Practice of social storytelling.

Table 2

Stages of work with specific learning situations 

Stage name

Teaching methods and techniques

Forms of training

1

Phenomenological

Highlighting and describing method features

 

 

 

 

Structured discussion form (minigroups)

Familiarity with the specific learning situation

Observation of the specialist’s work/actions

Observation of the child/children’s reactions during the specialist’s work

Identification of the main problem(s) arising during the specialist’s work

Methods, techniques, ways, didactic means and tools, specialist’s speech

Child/children’s reaction to the specialist’s actions

2

Analytical

Analysing and discussing the observation results

 

Group discussion

Trial characterisation of the method based on the observation and description made

3

Synthetic

Brief theoretical presentation by the teacher of the method and its use in work with children with ASD

Lecture with case studies

4

Reflexive

Personal attitude towards the method

Heuristic talk

The observed phenomena require explanation in connection with the context. The analyses conducted contribute to a more capacious perception and understanding of the theoretical material of the lecture, as real situations illustrating this or that method are presented. At the synthetic stage, the method is labelled and its methodological basis is revealed.

An important step is reflection on the results of work with the learning situation. Reflection gives the opportunity to develop an attitude towards the use of a particular method, to see its diversity and effectiveness, and to be confident in its use in future work with children with autism spectrum disorders.

By involving students in an active process of independent acquisition of knowledge, making maximum use of their own capabilities, the teacher promotes future defectologists’ understanding of where and how the acquired knowledge can be applied in their professional activities. Among the demanded professional qualities in the developing conditions of assistance to children on the autism spectrum are the ability to find solutions in non-standard situations and bear responsibility for them, as well as the readiness to act in cooperation with colleagues in the interests of the child. In this case, the professional culture of a defectologist moves to the level of professional and ethical norms and value orientations in relation to a child with ASD, in relation to oneself as a specialist, to one’s professional activity.

A key value orientation in the professional activity of a defectologist is the recognition of any person’s importance regardless of the severity of developmental disorders, even if the educational result of a child with ASD cannot be obtained quickly, or it does not meet our expectations and assumptions.

These meanings and values can constitute the professional culture of a defectologist when building effective interaction with students with autism spectrum disorders in the process of education and support, in the course of mastering their social experience.

Results

The developed training discipline «Practicum: The initial stage of work with an autistic spectrum child» — part of the programme «Education and Psychological and Pedagogical Support of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders», and the proposed classes using specific training situations allow students to learn in practice the fundamental scientific and methodological approaches in teaching and support of children with ASD. The creation of practical training situations is aimed at mastering the sequence, methods and techniques of working with students with autism spectrum disorders, while the factor of acceptance of the child is crucial for the successful formation of professional culture among teachers-defectologists.

Conclusions

The professional culture of a defectologist working in the field of psychological and pedagogical support and education of students with autism spectrum disorders is determined primarily by personal and professional self-development, where the most important is the reflected experience of difficulties while working with children. Familiarity with the variety of methods and approaches to working with children with ASD that exist in practice removes existing preconceptions about the effectiveness of some methods and the inexpediency of others. Awareness of common behavioural, psychological and educational interventions used in working with children with autism spectrum disorders is an important part of their professional culture.

As part of teacher training, such experience is gained through modelling specific teaching situations, discussing cases of real practice, which permeates the entire learning process, then it is brought to the direct industrial practice at the university, and in subsequent years can be used in further mastering of the speciality.

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Information About the Authors

Tamara N. Isaeva, PhD in Education, Assistant Professor of the Department Oligofrenopedagogics and Clinical Foundations of Defectology, Moscow Pedagogical State University, Moscow, Russia, ORCID: https://orcid.org/0009-0001-2345-529X, e-mail: tn_isaeva@mail.ru

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