The Flinders University will launch a postgraduate qualification in 2016 to train South Australian teachers to become specialists in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The program, which involves special training for up to 80 teachers at a cost of $700,000, is designed to make South Australia a leader in autism education.
A teacher and a co-ordinator from 40 schools will receive government-funded scholarships to undertake the graduate certificate program over the next two years, spreading best practices in their own schools and districts.
Flinders School of Education Associate Professor, Kerry Bissaker, told The Daily Telegraph that mainstream schools would be the main focus of the program, as that is where the majority of ASD students attend.
“It’s the most rapidly growing diagnosis of children with disabilities over the past decade,” Bissaker said.
“There have been a number of reports saying this is a high-stress area for teachers.”
Bissaker said the one-year course would “build the leadership capacity” of participants to mentor their colleagues and create “ASD-friendly schools”.
“Research indicates high-quality professional learning, specifically programs that include a tertiary qualification as an outcome, makes a difference on a number of levels for teachers and most importantly for students’ quality of life and learning,” Bissaker explained.
Preschool, primary and secondary teachers will be eligible to apply, with recruitment to start next term. Most teachers will be selected from public schools, however Catholic and independent schools will also be involved.
South Australia’s Education Minister, Susan Close, said the state government wanted to help teachers to “move beyond the basics” of autism education.
“The new program will be rigorous and complement other professional development initiatives in this area, while having the flexibility to respond to the diverse range of student needs across the autism spectrum,” Close said.