Exploring the issues in autism training for paediatricians, mainstream secondary school teachers and police officers in Malta


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Attard, Melvin (2022). Exploring the issues in autism training for paediatricians, mainstream secondary school teachers and police officers in Malta. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This study was conducted in Malta and explored the views on autism training of three different groups of professionals - the police, teachers in mainstream secondary schools, and paediatricians. A review of previous studies in this field revealed that these professionals often lacked sufficient knowledge on autism and needed training. A lack of knowledge often leads to misunderstandings and negative experiences for autistic people and their families alike. There was also a dearth of research on what their views on autism training were and what their preferred delivery method might be. This study focused on how knowledgeable the police, paediatricians and mainstream teachers were about autism in Malta, and whether they had received any autism training. It explored what might motivate these groups to engage in autism training, what training methods they found the most effective and enjoyed, and what might hinder their participation.

An online survey was developed and used to obtain a snapshot of their views on autism training. Of the 162 respondents, the majority had not received any training on autism and said they would be prepared to commit time to autism training in the future. Following the survey, 10 participants from each profession were interviewed. These showed that participants were more motivated to participate in training when it contained a practical element, rather than being purely theoretical, when training was tailored to their specific roles, and when it was short and focused. They preferred training to be held during working hours and felt incentives were needed. Their key motivation was a desire to do a better job. The key barriers were that other training often took precedence; there was a lack of available training in Malta and they were able to consult with more knowledgeable professionals, if needed. Autism was not viewed as an area that required immediate action.

The findings raised important issues for training providers such as, creating training that is presented in a way that boosts self-confidence to counteract their feelings of helplessness when dealing with autistic people. Training should be relevant to their practice and consider incentives for attendance. Training should also consider the use of effective methods that participants identified as motivators such as, simulation-based learning, which allows for more participation as opposed to a traditional lecture type, and input from autistic people and their families which was considered an effective motivator. Recommendations for future research include exploring how autistic people can be involved in the presentation as well as in the design of the training. This could start by gathering the views of autistic professionals themselves. There is also a need to explore how to make better use of digital and online learning for training, given that most of the paediatricians and teachers were keen to access this. Following these findings, a national task force should be considered to explore the inclusion of autism training in the initial training of these professionals, and to establish standardised training in autism for professionals, to generate a more positive training culture.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Education, Department of Disability, Inclusion and Special Needs
Funders: Other
Other Funders: Maltese Government
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13045


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