Ethics & students with autism 1


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Ethical concerns for teachers serving children with autism

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  • Children with autism spectrum disorder have documented impairments noted through observations of the child and based upon interviews with parents and/or primary child care providers, behavior rating scales and assessments specific to the child’s suspected disability
  • Ashbaker & Morgan (2006) discuss ethical behaviors and the professionalism of educators. They stress the professionalism is doing what we know is right not because the law tells us to do so but because we have integrity within our practices in serving students.
  • Ashbaker & Morgan (2006) continue with their discussion of ethical principles and describe specific situations. As educators, these situations are a part of our everyday practices.
  • The Board of directors for the Council for Exceptional Children approved a revised set of special education professional ethical principles on January 22, 2010. Based upon these three select principles, we discuss three scenarios that can arise in the performance of out duties as professional educators who work with students with autism spectrum disorders
  • Mrs. Smith has been given specific information to assist in the development of an individual plan to support Alex who is a child with autism. Alex will be served in her resource room and will go into the regular education class for opening circle time, story time, specials classes (art, music and gym) and selected activities in which he can participate. Mrs. Smith has set up her classroom with stations that the children will move to every 20-30 minutes. She has had success with a simple reward system, a reading program in which every child reads the same story and completes worksheets for math, phonics, and simple sentence writing. Although she believes in accommodations, she feels that she knows her children really well and puts the information from others in the drawer. She has run a very successful program for her students for many years and all this talk about picture cues, sensory needs and the reasons a child flaps his hands is just not reasonable. She will continue to use her rewards and if the child flaps his hands, he will be placed in an area for time-out. That behavior is not acceptable.
  • The CEC ethical standard of “Using evidence, instructional data, research and professional knowledge to inform practice” and “develop relationships with families based on mutual respect and actively involve them in educational decision-making” clearly promotes the need for teachers to do more than read the information about a child but to also utilize the information from parents and professionals to inform their instructional practices. Hall (2009) states that it is important for teachers and parents to work together in the best interest of a child. When ethical principles are not followed such as teachers not utilizing the information provided by a parent, parents have the right to address the issue with an administrator. It is the administrator’s responsibility to support the teachers, to promote the concept of collaboration with parents and to utilize data to promote effective instruction based upon a student’s individual needs.
  • Mr. Jones returns to his classroom and has examples of picture schedules, visual cues that can be used to serve his children with autism. He liked what he heard and the training made lots of sense but then, it seemed like a lot of extra work to prepare materials. So after the weekend, he decides that he’ll continue to run his classroom with the materials he has used in the past. He does put posters around and he tells students to look at the picture cues when reading. The regular education teacher asks how the workshop was and he responds by saying “It was good. I learned some things but nothing that will really change what we are doing to serve our kids.” The paraprofessional asks if there are some new ideas they can use for the students and Mr. Jones says, “Nah, we’re really doing well. They talked about using pictures and we have a schedule each day. We’re doing fine.”
  • The issue is the professional ethical principle of disseminating knowledge and skills that a teacher has learned. The district paid for this professional opportunity. Without requiring teachers, it is best practices and demonstrate ethical principles to share new knowledge about how to utilize evidence-based strategies. Although it is professional and ethical to share information and utilize strategies such as visual supports, when teachers do not do this a requirement to do so can be negotiated when district use school funds to pay for these opportunities.
  • These two teachers have worked together in the past. Mr. Michaels is a young teacher who has been mentored by an experienced teacher who has served many students with disabilities. He had difficulty with one student last year and sought the assistance from Mrs. Peters. She did not like the fact that he “didn’t know much” even though he learned a great deal from his mentor teacher and the student’s performance on the achievement tests indicated grade level skills. This year Mrs. Peters shared her ideas about Kelly with Mr. Michaels and she “just didn’t seem to think he was ready for a child with autism in his classroom.” She talked with the parents and told them she wanted to wait to send Kelly into her inclusion classroom and based upon her comments, they agreed.
  • The district administrators provide support for teachers in their role. With the federal laws and mandates, administrators are also responsible for ensuring that IEP’s are followed as written. When IEP’s are not followed, disciplinary action may occur to ensure due process procedures are not initiated by the parents due to FAPE not being given. In the court case, Doe versus Withers, 1993, the courts decided that teachers are responsible for the implementation of accommodations specified in individual students’ IEPs (Smith & Tyler, 2010). Likewise, teachers are responsible for implementing inclusion services as designed in the IEP.
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  • Ethics & students with autism 1

    2. 2. AGENDA• Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)• What are ethical behaviors when teaching?• Scenarios combining ethics & our students with ASD• Resolution of ethical issues
    3. 3. PRIMARY CHARACTERISTICS• Qualitative impairment with social interactions• Qualitative impairment in communication• Restrictive repetitive & stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, activities
    4. 4. ETHICSAn important part of professionalism is that we act in an appropriate manner because we know that it is right – not just because someone is policing our behavior.We behave in a specific manner because we have certain beliefs and our integrity requires us to act according to those beliefs.This is what is meant by ethicalbehavior or ethics—behaviorthat is governed by principles. (Ashbaker & Morgan, 2006)
    5. 5. SITUATIONS REQUIRING ETHICAL PRINCIPLES• Working relationships with other adults,• Communication and conflict resolution,• Assessment practices, and• Confidentiality and the use of information (Ashbaker & Morgan, 2006)
    6. 6. COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONALCHILDREN (CEC) ETHICAL PRINCIPLES• Develop relationships with families based on mutual respect and actively involve them in educational decision-making• Using evidence, instructional data, research and professional knowledge to inform practice• Participating in the growth and dissemination of professional knowledge and skills• Promoting meaningful and inclusive participation of individuals with exceptionalities in their schools and communities (CEC, 2010)
    7. 7. SCENARIO ONE• Mrs. Smith, 1st grade intervention specialist• Given data from previous year’s teacher on student performance & behaviors when tasks are not explained well to Alex• Parent provided insights about child’s interests & sensory needs• Alex flaps his hands when he cannot understand a task
    8. 8. ISSUES & RESOLUTIONS• Ethical principles: Develop relationships with families; Utilize evidence & data to inform practice• Teachers have an ethical responsibility to use the information from parent & collected data from other professionals• When teachers do not utilize information about a child shared by the parents, parents can address the concern with the teacher and then follow the chain of command• Administrators support collaboration & effective instruction based on student’s needs defined with data
    9. 9. SCENARIO TWO• Professional development approved by districts• Mr. Jones recently attended a two day workshop on the TEACCH program• Visual supports, structured schedules, routines emphasized• Caleb served in an inclusion setting with support from Mr. Jones and a paraprofessional during science, social studies, and math classes
    10. 10. ISSUE & RESOLUTION• Ethical principle: Dissemination of professional knowledge & skills• Teacher professional responsibilities are to Inform others in order to support the use of evidence-based strategies such as visual supports• When teachers do not disseminate knowledge as a part of their ethical behaviors, districts can request teachers to write a report about how they will utilize information from professional development opportunities in their practice when attending professional workshops• Teachers can be required to share at staff meetings or grade level meetings
    11. 11. SCENARIO THREE• Mrs. Peters serves as the intervention specialist• Kelly is a student with autism in her class• Mr. Michaels is the only regular education teacher in sixth grade• Decision by Mrs. Peters to keep Kelly with her for reading and math when performance reports indicate average or low-average skills in both areas because she does not approve of Mr. Michael’s techniques
    12. 12. ISSUE & RESOLUTION• Ethical principle: Promoting meaningful and inclusive participation• Teachers are responsible for following the IEP as written and responsible for keeping personal opinions separate from their professional practices• Directors of special education or administrators are responsible for teacher evaluations & the assurance that IEP’s are followed as written• Documentation in a teacher’s file and periodic discussions of services
    13. 13. • As we proceed through this year, remember that each of us has a professional ethical responsibility to support our students with disabilities and our children who are typically developing in our classrooms.• Thank you for your participation
    14. 14. REFERENCES• Ashbaker, B.Y. & Morgan, J. (2006). Paraprofessionals in the classroom. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education• Council for Exceptional Children. (2010). Special education professional ethical principles. Retrieved from• Smith, D.D. & Tyler, N.C. (2010). Introduction to special education: Making a difference. (11th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education