For some Autistic students and their families who live in remote and rural areas or who find that traditional schooling does not meet their needs, distance education is the preferred way to learn.
Distance education is one option that is supported by Australian departments of education; however, existing programs may not take into account the learning needs of students on the autism spectrum.
Aspect launched Australia’s first autism-specific distance education program in February 2020.
What are the experiences of students, parents and teachers involved in the Aspect Distance Education Program?
Are there ways that the Program can be improved?
Interviews with students and their parents and teachers involved in the Aspect Distance Education Program will investigate:
- What worked well
- What were the challenges
- Participants’ expectations and whether these were met
- Suggestions for improvement.
What we learnt
Feedback from teachers, students and teaching staff participating in Aspect’s first year of a novel distance education program has been positive. The individualised nature of the program and the flexibility this affords along with the support provided to parents appear to be key features of the program’s success.
Most students participating in the program were reported to be more engaged and happier as a result and these benefits appeared to extend to the wider family with most parents reported feeling less stressed, despite the extra work that the role of onsite supervisor entailed. A number of suggestions for improvements to the program were made including more opportunities for social engagement, and more communication options between teachers and students and parents.
Making a difference
This is the first research study to explore the experiences of students and their parents and teachers involved in an autism-specific distance education program.
Findings from this study will be used to improve Aspect’s Distance Education Program and may provide useful information for other education providers interested in offering distance education for Autistic students.
Vicki Gibbs, National Manager, ARCAP
Associate Professor Mark Carter
Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)