K-12 Educational Leadership and Autism

K-12 Educational Leadership and Autism

Judy Ruth Williamson (Texas Christian University, USA) and Jillian Yarbrough (West Texas A&M University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7732-5.ch006
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Abstract

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 1 in 54 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism occurs among all ethic, socioeconomic, and racial groups. With this nationwide prevalence, educational leadership, Principals, Vice Principals, and parents must be in a continuous state of learning about autism and the unique needs of their autistic learners. The chapter is dedicated to helping parents and educational leadership to understand each other's roles and responsibilities in regard to serving children and youth on the autism spectrum. First, the chapter will explore literature regarding unique leadership characteristics needed to support youth on the autism spectrum. Next, an overview of literature available regarding educational leaders' perspectives and strategies in supporting youth on the spectrum. Finally, suggestions and strategies for developing educational leaders that understand and cherish youth on the autism spectrum are given.
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Educational Leadership Literature

Martin Luther King Jr said, “The function of education, therefore is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education.” Dr. King is one of the greatest leaders, activists and educators of all time. When we engage with Dr. King’s words, we experience inclusive ideas that paint a picture of a world we all hope is possible. In this quote, Dr. King is describing educational ideals. Education should have the function of teaching each learner to think critically and to develop their character. These functions, critical thinking and development of character are consistent learner needs regardless of ability. In fact, learners with disabilities or additional challenges may benefit even more from the development of their critical thinking skills and character than a learner with the greatest self-directed academic potential.

For this chapter, we will define education as the structured development of critical thinking skills and character in the formal kindergarten through senior year in high school (K-12) format. Leaders throughout the K-12 system are critical for supporting autistic youth in receiving development in critical thinking and character. In fact, every educator, staff member, student and parent that sets foot within a school setting has the power to contribute or detract from critical thinking and character development. While this is a fact, each type of educational leader will need unique research and training to develop their awareness and ability to contribute to the autism community educational system. This chapter will focus on traditional educational leaders, principals, vice principals and the generally unrecognized leadership of the parent. Through greater understanding of the educational leadership and parent leadership contributions, enhancements in academic opportunities for youth on the spectrum can be uncovered. Literature has many studies and tools available to help educational leaders implement educational system that facilitate critical thinking and character in youth with autism.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Education: The structured development of critical thinking skills and character in the formal kindergarten through senior year in high school (K-12) format.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): A law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation.

Educational Leaders: Individuals in education that recognize and support true learning through creating learning experiences that support both intelligence and character.

Inclusion: The action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

Self-Determination: An individual being a causal agent in their daily activities, including the ability to express their own needs, interests, and wants, make choices, and set goals.

Autism: A developmental disorder characterized by difficulty in social interaction, communication and may include restricted or repetitive patterns.

Williamson Yarbrough Educational Model of Leadership: A model used to visualize that all learners, including those on the autism spectrum, deserve true education which pairs the development of one’s intelligence and character.

Attitudes: Mental posturers or cumulative perception.

Educational Climates: The environment in which educators and learners are operating to gain knowledge.

Implementation Science: The scientific knowledge about evidence-based practices, and the measurement of program quality into an intervention approach for students with ASD.

Perceptions: Way sensory information is organized, interpreted, and consciously experienced.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Describes the range of developmental disabilities an individual with autism can experience, including social, communication and behavioral challenges.

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