Exploring the sense of belonging felt by adolescent females with autism in mainstream school: what can we learn about their social experiences?
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This two phase qualitative study explored the social experiences of adolescent females with autism and how they can be supported most effectively in mainstream school. The first phase of the research gained the views of eight adolescent females with autism. Semi-structured interviews were used to explore the ways in which they experience a sense of belonging and exclusion in school; and what they feel would support them socially. The second phase of the research sought the views of the parents and school staff who support adolescent females with autism. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were used to explore their views regarding the social challenges of mainstream school for adolescent females with autism; and the support and provision needed to address the concerns and challenges identified by the pupils in phase one. The findings across both phases suggest that key friendships, understanding and perceived social competence are important for adolescent females with autism in developing a sense of belonging in mainstream school. Adolescent females with autism are motivated to form a sense of belonging in school, but experience pressure to adapt their behaviour and minimise their differences in order to gain acceptance. The findings also identify good practice and areas for development in regards to effective support for adolescent females with autism in mainstream school.
Degree of Doctor of Educational, Child and Community Psychology