Teach or Treat: How do Teachers and Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapists in Hong Kong Conceptualise Autism?

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Kung, Priscilla 
Bailey, Julie 

Relatively scant research has been conducted on linking conceptualisations of autism to practice, especially in non-western contexts. To gain an in-depth understanding of how frontline staff for autistic students conceptualise autism in Hong Kong educational settings, 5 mainstream classroom teachers and 5 Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapists based in Hong Kong were virtually interviewed. The semi-structured interviews were coded using an abductive thematic analysis. It was found that teachers and ABA therapists in Hong Kong generally demonstrated a medical conceptualisation of autism while teachers showed a weaker understanding of autism and more negative attitudes towards autism. Moreover, therapists and teachers were also consistent in showing an ableist approach in instruction and intervention. These findings are subject to a small sample size. The findings of this study indicate an unchallenging deficit-based model of understanding autism in Hong Kong education, and call for proactive interventions from the local government to shift the landscape of conceptualisations of autism to provide an equitable education for autistic students.

Autism, conceptualisation of autism, applied behaviour analysis, teacher
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CERJ, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
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