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Emma Rice

Sense of self and autism: the mainstream secondary school experience


Discipline/professional area

Outline of research project

Autism advocates critique autism research for the exclusion of autistic voice, its predominant focus on identifying deficit development, and its subsequent focus on ‘normalising’ through treatment (Chown et al., 2017; Milton & Bracher, 2013). Autism and sense of self research regularly employs autistic young people in comparison with their ‘normative’ counterparts, exploring autistic sense of self in terms of what is lacking in comparison with others. In contrast, my research project draws on participatory paradigms to enable autistic young people to articulate their sense of self- to tell the story of ‘who am I?’ with their own voice. Aiming for an inclusive approach, this project utilises a plurality of methods, with the autistic young people involved employing individualised modes of expression (Stone & Priestley,1996). Consequently, this research draws together visual, verbal and written methods to consider how autistic young people conceptualise their sense of self, including the impact of mainstream schooling on this. In addition, the participatory methodology is appraised by the autistic pupils involved, aiming to conclude on the effectiveness of this methodology in enabling autistic voices to be heard.

Key references

Chown, N., Robinson, J., Beardon, L., Downing, J., Hughes, L., Leatherland, J., Macgregor, D. (2017). Improving research about us, with us: A draft framework for inclusive autism research. Disability & Society, 32(5), 720-734.

Humphrey, N. & Lewis, S. (2008) " Make me normal": The views and experiences of pupils on the autistic spectrum in mainstream secondary schools. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 12(1): 23-46.

Milton, D. E., & Bracher, M. (2013). Autistics speak but are they heard. J. BSA MedSoc Group7, 61-69.

Pellicano, E., Dinsmore, A., & Charman, T. (2014). What should autism research focus upon? community views and priorities from the United Kingdom. Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 18(7), 756-770.

Stone, E., & Priestley, M. (1996). Parasites, pawns and partners: Disability research and the role of non-disabled researchers. British Journal of Sociology., 47(4), 699-716.

Williams, E.I., Gleeson, K., & Jones, B.E. (2017) How Pupils on the Autism Spectrum Make Sense of Themselves in the Context of Their Experiences in a Mainstream School Setting: A Qualitative Metasynthesis. Autism. Advanced Online Publication.

Director of studies
Professor Nick Hodge

Dr Lisa Reidy

Expected Completion date

October 2020

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