Second Level Education and Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploration of Peer, Parent and Teacher Experiences
Citation:CREMIN, KATIE, Second Level Education and Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Exploration of Peer, Parent and Teacher Experiences, Trinity College Dublin.School of Psychology.PSYCHOLOGY, 2018
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Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are extensively reported to find the experience of secondary school challenging. Few studies have informed on this in detail, particularly considering social and behavioural factors. With reported poor post-secondary school outcomes and a recognition that adolescents with ASD experience high levels of anxiety and depression, this body of research aimed to examine this time in the life of the student with ASD. It aimed to specifically address perspectives of parents, teachers and peers in the secondary school setting. In order to achieve this, the current programme of research consists of four studies. The first study qualitatively examined parent perspectives on the transition and commencement of secondary school for their child with ASD. Eight parents were interviewed in depth. Thematic analysis indicated themes relating to, the transition process and its context; the importance of communication for a successful transition; the challenges of social participation for their child; how the individuality of their child and their ASD created specific issues; and the many factors for attainment in secondary school which are inextricably linked to unlocking the child’s potential. Overall the findings emphasised practical strategies for other parents based on their experience and a desire for their child to settle and attain in secondary school. The second study was a cross-sectional survey design with 105 participants representing students with ASD in Irish secondary schools. Parents and teachers reported on within student and school factors, including measures of positive social and problem behaviour in school. Descriptive analyses showed that 87.5% agreed or strongly agreed that school was challenging. Teachers reported being familiar with ASD, but less so with the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). High levels of anxiety were observed by teachers. Higher anxiety was found to relate to those who got on least well with others, and there was higher anxiety reported for students integrated into the mainstream than those in fulltime special classes. Regression analysis showed a relationship between social confidence, mainstream integration and adaptive social behaviour. No other relationships were found between school and student factors and social and problem behaviours. The study confirms that secondary school is a challenge for Irish students with ASD, that anxiety is frequently observed and it also appears to play a role in social experiences. The final two studies examined peers without ASD as a vital component of the social experience of secondary school for those with ASD. A representative sample (N=72) of Transition Year (TY) students completed self-report measures of knowledge, attitude, behavioural intentions and concepts related to ASD within a neurodiversity framework. Results revealed a wide range of knowledge, attitudes and intentional behaviours. Previous experience of ASD was predictive of higher levels of knowledge. Being female also predicted higher intentional behaviours. Students were not aware of neurodiversity but expressed attitudes in line with its concept. Reviews of interventions to change knowledge, attitude and intentional behaviour demonstrated weak evidence and a small research base, with some evidence that multi-component and contact interventions had the greatest impact. An intervention (Project ALLY- Autism and Lasting Links for Youth) was subsequently devised. All 72 TY students in the previous study were allocated to either the intervention or a control condition. The intervention showed a large effect for general social and academic intentional behaviours, and a medium effect for active recreation intentional behaviours and societal attitudes. There was a small effect for the standardised measure of knowledge, but a very large effect for knowledge specific to the intervention content. Feedback was positive from all students in the intervention condition. The findings from this body of research provide useful insights into perspectives on the secondary school experience for students with ASD. It is recommended that Project ALLY be further developed and investigated as a potential evidence-based intervention in secondary schools. Findings from all of the studies can be utilised for the development of services and support for students with ASD in second level education within an Irish context.
Author: CREMIN, KATIE
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Psychology. Discipline of Psychology
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available