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Toward vocational training for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Malaysia: Challenges, opportunities and reasonable hope

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (2004) noted that people with learning difficulties including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), face challenges when attempting to get a job after completing their secondary schooling. The number of young people with ASD has placed pressure on the public education system to provide pathways to access vocational training and to enter the workforce. Given this pressure, it is timely to identify what opportunities are available and what challenges young people face in accessing these pathways. This study examined vocational training for young people with ASD in the Malaysian context. It sought multiple perspectives from young people with ASD, their parents, school teachers and their NASOM (the National Autism Society of Malaysia) teachers. This wider perspective showed the extent of the challenges, not only for young people but also for families, teachers, schools, non- governmental organisations (NGOs) and potential employers. A narrative inquiry methodology based on Clandinin and Connelly’s (2000) three dimensions of space, time and social interaction was chosen as the overarching theoretical orientation of the study. Research field texts were collected through semi-structured interviews. The field texts were analysed using a narrative case study approach. The analysis highlighted complexities for young people, families, teachers and potential employers, at this significant developmental time in young people’s lives. In the midst of opportunities and challenges, the study notes the significance of an orientation to hope. Weingarten’s (2010) construct and practice of reasonable hope has been critical in making sense of the research findings. Practices of care, persistence, courage, determination, commitment, carefully structured steps, scaffolding learning opportunities, consistent and small acts of reasonable hope were identified in each of the case studies. The findings indicated that many factors need to be considered to implement vocational training programmes successfully. In particular, the community's involvement in working alongside parents to support young people with ASD into employment was important, as parents held hope that their children’s future would involve successful transition into some kind of work or further education. Teachers and families emphasised a need for mainstream and NASOM teachers to be equipped with current knowledge and skills, so they can help the students gain skills and knowledge offered in vocational training programmes and career transition programmes. The findings suggested that career transition programmes might be a vital prerequisite or bridging pathway for young people with ASD to find work or further their education in a vocational training programme. Financial resources emerged as a limitation to what schools could provide for students to help them bridge some of the challenges. However, despite the challenges and constraints identified in relation to vocational training, there was also evidence of opportunities available for young people with ASD to pursue future possibilities, including work. “Doing hope” by young people, families, teachers, community and policymakers provided the pathways for these opportunities to be materialised.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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