Researching my own solutions: interview with an inclusive teacher, Malaysia

Rosnah Sahilan has been teaching for six years. She has a degree in Biotechnology and a teaching diploma. Here she explains her interest in supporting all the children in her class, and how she has experimented with her own solutions to inclusion challenges.

What are your thoughts on inclusion generally?
I think every child is gifted; it is for us as teachers to discover what they have. The negative things are in the school environment. As long as we try to understand children better, it won't be a big problem. We just need to do some research, so we can better understand their needs in school and what they need from us as teachers.

Why are you interested in research as part of your teaching job?
In Malaysia some teachers still have negative attitudes about children with disabilities. We have not been exposed much to conditions like autism or ADD (attention deficit disorder) - staff know nothing about them. I think all teachers need to be trained to handle this type of situation. This is why I need to do research to help myself.

I am interested in including children with ADD and autism. This challenges my usual techniques. I think: "How can I include them with their friends in the teaching and learning? How can I support them in the class?" I have always tried to figure out a solution by doing a lot of activities, and finding out which ones are suitable and which are not. Through trial and error, I come up with a solution that is good for the children, that suits their behaviour and characteristics. Each child is different; no two children with a particular disability are the same.

What research activities have you done?
I'm a science teacher; I love to do research and search for answers. I know that some disabilities have to do with the brain and chemicals, etc, but it is not the fault of the pupil or their parents. My entor helped me. [Rosnah has been involved in a project to provide mentors to English language teachers to help improve the quality of English language teaching.] I told her about my interest in including certain learners and she gave me support. She helped me search for books and connected me to others with experience of autism who could give me practical advice, which I have used in class.

I have used the Internet to find ideas, but mostly I just try activities myself. I observe if they are working or not and then I make changes. It's like action research.

What have you learned through research?
I have found that children with ADD and autism want to be like other pupils. The way they think and do things is slightly different from other pupils, but they still want and need the same things. I don't want to put them aside, I want to include them. It just takes time. Children who are new to the school environment can take extra time to get used to the routines.

I have also learned that it is easier to develop positive attitudes at a young age. Pupils in class more readily accept a child with autism, they respect him and don't bully him - although I may need to help by initially explaining about autism and by refusing to accept any bullying. It can take time, but the children will then carry their new positive attitudes with them in the future.

What has helped your research?
In my case parents have supported their children and given lots of information and co-operation to the teachers. This is the advantage that I have, although I know some parents maybe don't talk to the teachers about their concerns.

Rosnah can be contacted via EENET.


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