Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 12. Number2  June 2021                        Pp.22 -30

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English As Secondary Language Learning and Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Obstacles in Teaching and Learning the Language 

Haida Umiera Hashim
Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Corresponding Author:

Melor Md Yunus
Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Helmi Norman
Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia


Received: 3/25/2021               Accepted: 5/23/2021               Published: 6/24/2021

To this date, there has been an increasing number of children across the globe diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. There has been much literature that discussed the issues and obstacles common learners face in their English language learning journey. Yet, not much spotlight and acknowledgment were given to the learners with Autism in their voyage of English language learning. In conjunction to that, this paper intends to investigate the obstacles that the learners with Autism face in their English as secondary language learning. In addition to that, teachers are not to be forgotten as teachers are also believed to be playing a role in learners with Autism’s English as a second language(ESL) learning process which is why this research also intends to investigate the challenges faced by the teachers who are in charge of teaching learners with Autism. A qualitative research with the observation and interview as the instruments represents this research. This research involved two Autism Centres located in an urban area in Malaysia. The observation and interviews were conducted with forty-five learners with Autism and fourteen teachers. The findings have gathered that the world of Autism Spectrum Disorder is indeed full of obstacles and challenges but none that could not be overcome. It is believed that this research will provide a better insight of the real world of ESL teaching and learning among learners with Autism.  Discussions and recommendations are further explained in this research.
Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder, challenges, English as Secondary Language, language learning, obstacles

Cite as:   Hashim,H. U., Yunus, M.M.,  Norman, H.  (2021). English As Secondary Language Learning and Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Obstacles in Teaching and Learning the Language.
Arab World English Journal, 12 (2) 22-30.


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Received: 3/25/2021   
Accepted: 5/23/2021 
Published: 6/24/2021  

Haida Umiera Hashim is a researcher at the Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. She earned her bachelor’s degree and masters degree at the University of Malaya and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in the field of education (Teaching English as Secondary Language) respectively. She is currently pursuing her degree of philosophy (PhD) at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in the same area. ORCid ID :

Dr. Melor Md Yunus is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and is currently the Deputy Dean (Research and Innovation) at the Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). She holds a B.A. in English (Linguistics) from the University of Nevada-Reno, USA and an M.A. in TESL from the Arizona State University, USA. She then earned her Ph.D. in Education (TESL) from the University of Bristol, UK. Her areas of concentration are TESL, language pedagogy and the use of technology in TESL. Her expertise is in the area of Technology-enhanced Language Learning (TELL). ORCid ID :

Dr. Helmi Norman is currently the Deputy Director of Instructional Technologies of the Center for Teaching and Curriculum Development, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and currently drives the e-learning transformation in the university. He is also a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Education, UKM. His research interests are in the field of digital learning and futuristic education. He was awarded as an Apple Distinguished Educator for driving transformation of national projects for primary, secondary, and higher education in promoting 1:1 pedagogical and learning approaches using the Apple ecosystem. He is a certified Professional Technologist of the Malaysian Board of Technologists. Dr Norman’s global experience includes his appointment on the board of directors of the International Association for Blended Learning, which pioneers blended learning initiatives around the globe. He is also the pioneer of “dronagogy” in designing futuristic education with drone-based learning. ORCid ID :