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Thinking differently about autism

Principal Investigator

Professor Nick Hodge

Project date

1988 - ongoing

Shifting the 'problem' of autism from the individual and onto the educational and social environments in which children find themselves

This project is a 30-year engagement with developing ways of thinking differently about autism. The research is rooted in Nick Hodge's early experiences as a teacher of autistic pupils and supporter of families. The children Nick taught were marked out through diagnosis as a homogenous group of disordered beings who were only defined by the 'can't do', the skills, abilities and attributes they were said to lack. For Nick, this framing of the autistic child did not fit with the dynamic and individual pupils he taught, all of whom brought a diverse range of talents and personality to the project of learning. Thus began a project through which Nick set out to understand why and how these children might have come to be framed in particular ways and to identify how different conceptualisations of autism impact on pedagogy and practice. In doing so Nick has utilised his personal experience, the accounts of autistic people and their families, research with autistic people and those who support them and the work of other colleagues researching in the field.

More recently Nick has situated the project within the paradigms of Critical Disability Studies, Critical Autism Studies and Emancipatory Research. Through these Nick has identified modes of resistance to the dominant ways of thinking about autism and disability that continue to marginalise and exclude children and young people. In doing so Nick shifts the focus of the 'problem' of autism from the individual and onto the educational and social environments in which children find themselves. Nick seeks through his research to open up the gaps in oppressive educational practices that reduce and exclude the autistic child to enable spaces where aspiration, achievement and well-being can thrive.


Sheffield Hallam University


A series of blog post for the Times Educational Supplement

Education system should help autistic pupils achieve potential. The Sheffield Telegraph 02/02/2017.

Hodge, N. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2018) "You say… I hear…": Epistemic gaps in practitioner-parent/carer talk. In K. Runswick-Cole, Curran, T. and Liddiard , K. (eds) The Palgrave handbook of Disabled Children's Childhood Studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hodge, N. (2016 ) Schools without labels. In R. Mallett, K. Runswick-Cole and S. Timimi (eds) Rethinking Autism. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hodge, N. & Wolstenholme, C. (2016): ‘I didn’t stand a chance’: how parents experience the exclusions appeal tribunal. International Journal of Inclusive Education. DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2016.1168875

Hodge, N. (2014) Protecting the rights of pupils with autism when meeting the challenge of behaviour. British Journal of Learning Disabilities : doi: 10.1111/bld.12096

Hodge, N and Runswick-Cole, K (2013) "They never pass me the ball": exposing ableism through the leisure experiences of disabled children, young people and their families. Children's Geographies 11 (3): 311-325 ISSN: 1473-3285

Hodge, N (2012) Counselling, Autism and the Problem of Empathy. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling 41(2): 105-116 ISSN: 0306-9885 (Print), 1469-3534 (Online)

Hodge, N. and Chantler, S. (2010) It's not what you do, it's the way that you question: that's what gets results. Support for Learning, 25 (1) 11-15 ISSN: 1467-9604

Runswick-Cole, K. and Hodge, N. (2010) Educational Rights: challenging the discourse of special education. British Journal of Special Education, 36 (4) 198-203 ISSN: 1467-8578

Hodge, N. and Runswick-Cole, K. (2008) Problematising parent-professional partnerships in education. Disability and Society, Vol 23, 6:637-649 ISSN (printed): 0968-7599. ISSN (electronic):1360-0508

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