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Title: Facilitating communication between students on the autism spectrum and staff in secondary mainstream schools
Author: Hummerstone, Harriet
ISNI:       0000 0004 7656 4478
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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The Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice (DfE, 2015) makes it essential for students on the autism spectrum to be involved in making decisions about their education. However, differences in communication between individuals on the autism spectrum and neurotypicals (those not on the autism spectrum) could make these consultations difficult. An exploratory and participatory approach was taken to investigate the processes of communication and support in secondary schools. Six autistic adults advised on interviewing and communication techniques for working with individuals on the autism spectrum. These recommendations informed the first phase of the research: semi-structured interviews with six students on the autism spectrum (involving photo elicitation) and seven staff members from two secondary mainstream schools in the south of England. Thematic analysis of the findings revealed four key examples of the 'double-empathy problem' (Milton, 2012) in their perspectives on the processes of communication and support in school. The four areas were: responsibility for improving staff understanding about students, the nature and frequency of providing effective support, and awareness of students' sensory experiences. These findings informed the second phase of the study: designing four activities to facilitate communication with students on the autism spectrum about these four differences in perspective, then asking educational practitioners to assess whether and how the information from these activities might be used to facilitate communication and support with students. Informant design was used to create four activities with the same six students from the first phase and the same adult autism advocacy group. The information gained from students completing these four activities was summarised and given to sixteen educational practitioners to comment on, including two staff members from the first phase of the research. The findings from the second phase highlighted the importance of personalisation and feeling understood for students, and how personal information about individual students could potentially lead to some development in educational practitioners' communication with and understanding of the students. However, the four double-empathy problems identified in the first phase were not addressed sufficiently to assess whether they were able to be improved. The findings from both phases of the research suggest that the importance of individual differences cannot be over-stated when communicating with and supporting students on the autism spectrum, and that being understood is crucial to students' perceptions of effective support in secondary mainstream schools.
Supervisor: Parsons, Sarah Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available