Factors Influencing the Implementation of Free Basic Education Program for Learners With Autism in Selected Schools in Nairobi County, Kenya
Education is a basic human right and everyone is therefore entitled to quality basic education. The number of children diagnosed with autism has increased over the years with an estimation that 1% of the world population have the condition. The education of the children with autism spectrum disorder in Kenya has not received the necessary attention it deserves. This study aimed at establishing the factors that influence the implementation of free basic education program for children with autism spectrum disorder in Nairobi County, Kenya. It sought to find how support services, capacity building, curriculum design and monitoring and evaluation influence the education of learners with autistic spectrum disorder in the free basic education policy program. Literature on the relationship between the independent variables and the dependent variable has been cited. The study is based on Vygotsky's social constructonist theory on disability that emphasizes a positive resource oriented approach including a favourable societal view on children with disabilities, with preference to the strengthening and empowerment of individual skills rather than the traditional stress on weakness or deviations. The study was cross-sectional and adopted a descriptive survey research design, that entailed the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data. The target population was 210 individuals, being teachers and parents of three primary schools in Nairobi County with autism integrated units and officers from the ministry of education, science and technology. A census was conducted on the parents and teachers while convenience sampling was used for the officials. Research instruments were questionnaires for teachers and parents, and interview schedules for the officials. Reliability of instruments was determined by use of split-half method and Spearman-Brown prophecy formula. Data analysis was done through qualitative and quantitative methods and simple descriptive statistics used to interprete the results. The study found that support services, evidence-based teaching strategies and visual and sound aides were important for enhancing the learning process for a learner with autism., over 59% of teachers were of the view that occupational therapy, support of teacher aides, behavior management services, speech therapy and physiotherapy were important or very important, while 70% of parents reported the same services, together with dietary intervention as very necessary in the school for their children with autism spectrum disorder. Level of training of teachers determined their level of use of strategies that enhance learning by the autistic child. 81% of teachers surveyed had trained in special education but only 22% had specialized in education of learners with autism. However, 66.6% reported to have been moderately to very highly sensitized on autistic behavior and management while 68% were not aware of a special curriculum for learners with ASD. The study established that there is inadequate staffing with a ratio 1 teacher per 7 learners, and, generally, teachers assigned to leaners with autism were just above moderately trained in all the special evidence based-instructional skills for the category of learners. Parents meet the cost of the few support services rendered to the child with autism while 63% of teachers reported that ministry evaluators never visited or only visited once per year with an equal proportion saying they did not discuss the evaluation process and outcome with the officers. The study made recommendations to the government and stakeholders aimed at addressing the issues unearthed relating to free education for learner with autism. Key among these are the enhanced and intensive training and deployment of teachers, and the provision of necessary support services as well as need-based funding of special need education.
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