Assessment of a New Educational Programme using Emotional Understanding and Social Interaction in Children with High-Functioning Autism
Alsakran, Wejdan Abdullah
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis is concerned with the key areas of social interaction and emotional understanding in children with autism with regard to their development. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a ten sessions long intervention programme with the objective of facilitating the children’s social-emotional understanding, as well as promoting their social skills and interaction with both peers and adults. Two methods of studies were used with 6 children - aged 7 to 11 - who had previously been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. The quasi-experimental study divided the sample into an experimental and control group in order to evaluate the intervention. The second method was a case study involving two children in the experimental group. Both approaches provided evidence of the effectiveness of the intervention programme in enhancing the social and emotional components. The results from the first study showed that the intervention programme was associated with improvements for the children in the experimental group in their overall social-emotional understanding, as well as their social skills and interaction with their peers. Moreover, there was strong agreement between the three sources (parents, teachers and children) about this improvement, which supports the reliability of the outcomes. On the other hand, children from the control group did not improve in the tested areas. The results from the second study revealed the typical description of emotional and social deficits in the two children with high-functioning autism. In each case there were specific aspects to their level of difficulties and the way in which they interacted with their friends and family. The data collected after the intervention supports the hypothesis that children with autism can learn emotional understanding (including empathy), and this was associated with an improvement in their social functioning. The case studies also showed agreement between the parents in their dissatisfaction about the level of support that their children received at school. None of the children had received any type of social training programme particularly aimed at teaching them these specific skills. The two methods of evaluation complemented each other. Although caution should be taken when interpreting the findings, owing to the small sample size, the study suggests that children with high-functioning autism respond well to interventions designed to support their social and emotional understanding.
PhD in Education