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Title: Perceptions of the mainstream school experience for students with a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Conditions : an exploratory study in a U.K. local authority
Author: Lythgoe, Christina
ISNI:       0000 0004 5918 7391
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
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Baird et al (2006) suggest that Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) affect approximately 1 % of UK students. Nearly three-quarters of students with ASC attend mainstream school provision (DfE, 2012). The research explores perceptions of provision for ASC in mainstream schools. The research involved a 20% sample (36) of the total population of students who attended primary and secondary mainstream schools in the LA and who had a diagnosis of ASC. Students were placed at school action plus on the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES, 2001 ) or had a statement of special educational needs. This sample was drawn from both primary and secondary schools. This exploratory research is innovative in that attempts were made to secure both a geographical spread in the sample and a wide range of student needs. Semi-structured interviews allowed students, their parents and mainstream school staff to share perceptions of school. A mixed methods approach is adopted and both qualitative and quantitative data was collected and is discussed. Research findings indicated that students typically wanted a little more help in school. Those that wished for less help were often motivated by wishing to be seen as more independent. Students were often able to identify challenging areas of school life and frequently rated these areas as "very difficult" suggesting they caused anxiety. Typically, curriculum areas were rated as causing much more difficulty by students than social factors. Written recording was noted as a challenging feature of school. Parents appeared less concerned about curriculum difficulties compared to their children. The research identifies how some students do not always welcome help from peers and adults in school, preferring to be asked about whether they want help. Some students identified sensory issues, specifically noise, as causing difficulties. Noise made by other people was specified as challenging. The provision of a quiet area and the use of key visuals were identified as supportive by both students and staff. All staff using interventions to address emotions, for example, opportunities for students to discuss worries, reported that these were effective interventions. A high proportion of staff felt that ASC strategies are beneficial to students without ASC. Several parents valued Teacher Assistant support. They believed a good understanding of the individual was vital to including their child in school as was differentiation of response. They felt that lack of flexibility, poor communication with school or the approach adopted by certain staff could be a barrier. Parents were concerned about bullying, teasing and social issues, to a much greater degree than were their children. Some parents felt that research involving students with ASC at school should also consider the home environments. Staff and parents mentioned a good inclusive school ethos and flexible support as helpful. This research is original in considering the complexities of insider research as experienced by an Educational Psychologist researching school staff and parental views. The findings are discussed using conceptual frameworks of inclusion, child voice, Theory of Mind and a reconsideration of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (1943). This research argues that safety needs are magnified as key motivators for those with ASC.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available