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Title: Investigating the nature of friendship in children with autistic spectrum conditions in mainstream primary schools
Author: Calder, Lynsey
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 092X
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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Children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are increasingly included in UK mainstream classrooms. Research indicates that friendship is a particularly significant factor in the overall experience of mainstream school for these children and yet this remains a poorly understood and under-researched topic. This study examined the nature of friendship in 12 children with ASC in mainstream primary schools in one Local Authority. A mixed-methodology, multi-informant approach was adopted to examine the friendships of children with ASC relative to typically developing children of similar age and cognitive ability. First, self-rated friendship quality of children with ASC was compared to that of typical peers. Second, to investigate the potential factors accounting for individual differences in children's friendship quality, the relationship between cognitive ability and Theory of Mind (ToM) ability and friendship quality was examined within each group separately. Third, to gain an in-depth understanding of their friendships, children with ASC were interviewed. Parents and teachers were also interviewed to gain their views of the -friendships and information about their role in the friendship development and maintenance. Furthermore, the perspective of peers was sought through a Socio-Cognitive Mapping exercise to ascertain the extent to which children with ASC were considered to be included in social networks in the classroom. Finally, structured observations of social interaction patterns of children with ASC verified information gained through other sources. The findings indicate that children with ASC rate their friendships as poorer quality than matched typical peers on two affective dimensions. Specifically, they indicate that their friendships provide less Help (aid and support) and less Closeness (acceptance and ~ validation). There was variability in autistic children's ratings of their friendship quality but, unexpectedly, neither cognitive ability nor ToM ability could account for these individual differences. Parents were found to play an important role in supporting friendship development through direct instruction for managing interactions. Teachers' reports indicated 8 that friendships of children with ASC were generally given low priority in schools. Encouragingly, the children themselves generally reported satisfaction with their current friendships and no child with ASC was found to be socially isolated. These results bear important implications for educational psychologists, parents and teachers alike. In particular, children's social motivation appears to be an important factor, and children's reported satisfaction with their friendships should determine the level of intervention to support these friendships.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Ed.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available