Barriers to admission to mainstream primary schools for children with high functioning autism/asperger's syndrome (Umlazi District)
In South Africa basic education is a right for all children (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996) and mainstream education for learners with so called mild disabilities such as High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome (HFA / AS) is available according to government policy (White Paper 6, South African Department of Education, 2001b). The aim was to explore barriers to admission to mainstream primary school education for learners with HFA / AS. A mixed methods research design with two phases was used. Twenty-eight government primary schools in two circuits of a KZN school district completed a questionnaire; five parents of children with HFA / AS took part in a focus group discussion and an autoethnographic essay was written by the researcher. The data were analysed with descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Some schools and the majority of parents were unaware of the learners’ educational rights. Gaps in the implementation of policy exist, which contributed significantly to the barriers to admission for learners with HFA / AS. Main barriers were lack of knowledge and misconceptions about HFA / AS amongst school staff, lack of training for school staff, lack of government funding, lack of unity between parents and teachers/schools and negative attitudes towards inclusion of learners with HFA / AS. Suggested ways of overcoming the barriers to admission included small classes, class assistants or facilitators, improved unity and communication between parents and teachers and greater government support. With solutions addressed in the future, learners with HFA / AS can access suitable education in order to become contributing adults to society (Attwood, 2007).