Supporting the inclusion of children and young people, who experience autism spectrum disorder/ social communication difficulties, in mainstream classrooms

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2023
Thesis identifier
  • T16749
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • An autism outreach (AOT) can be uniquely placed to assist classroom teachers in reducing the research to practice gap, in supporting autistic children within mainstream education (Finelli, et al., 2014; Grima-Farrell., 2018). The heterogeneity of the condition ensures that ‘one size does not fit all’ (Schwab et al., 2022) leaving some teachers struggling to effectively adapt the curriculum to meet autistic pupil’s needs. This study aims to identify how an AOT can support classroom teachers to enhance educational inclusion. A mixed methods approach was used to evaluate the current practice of an AOT, with the team as participant action researchers. The results indicated that to increase the team’s effectiveness in supporting inclusion, improvements were required in policy development, assessment, intervention, and evaluation approaches. Building the capacity of school-based staff was found to be a further area requiring improvement. In addition, one third of referrals to the AOT were for pupils at points of transition. An improvement program involving participant action research was undertaken to coproduce good practice guidance for transition, with staff, parents, and autistic young people. Good practice guidance was created around stakeholders’ views alongside the latest research on effective practices in school-based transitions. This study demonstrates that an AOT can support school staff in the implementation of inclusion as well as supporting in the identification and implementation of evidence-based practices. It is argued that participatory evaluation has a key role in service improvement and transformative change and that stakeholder perspectives alongside research and psychological theory are useful proponents in transition policy development. Furthermore, it is suggested that Multiple and Multi-dimensional Transition theory (Jindal-Snape, 2016) has a high applied value in supporting schools in planning for successful transitions. Key words – ASD, inclusion, transition, transition policy guidance, research to practice gap
Advisor / supervisor
  • Boyle, James
  • Daly, Clare
Resource Type