04 SES 14 A JS, Working with Autistic Children: A Transnational Overview
Joint Paper Session NW 04 and NW 14
Sociomaterial perspectives on education focus on the enactment of pedagogy through relational practices (relationships, roles, identities), semiotic practices (language, discourse) and material realities (Fenwick et al. 2011). Learning spaces are described as existing as networks of associations where human and nonhuman entities come together in moments of significance for teachers and pupils, and this makes the ‘vitality of matter’ and the materiality of embodied participation also of consideration as influences on learning (Edwards and Fenwick 2015). Researchers investigating inclusive education call for more to be known about how inclusion is enacted by teachers in classrooms (Florian and Beaton 2018; Webster and Blatchford 2015). A sociomaterial perspective is especially relevant to an investigation of autism and education since autistic people often describe important and meaningful connections to nonhuman things and a way of being in the world does not privilege representational ways of knowing (Nadesan 2005).
The aim of this study was to examine the ways in which autistic pupils participate in everyday learning interactions with their teachers and teaching assistants, with research questions focused on what social practices, but also material entities and spatial arrangements are present within effective pedagogy. A second research question addressed how practitioners and pupils made sense of learning and learning relationships. Participants included five primary-age autistic pupils who were considered to be making good progress and eight practitioners in four mainstream schools in the UK. A participatory research design where practitioners and pupils were invited to be research partners who gathered video data of naturally occurring learning interactions. In total, 38 interactions were recorded. A detailed transcription method was applied to video data and initial interpretations made, with further analysis carried out through discussions of interpretations with practitioners and pupils. In addition, practitioner participants participated in more formal individual semi-structured interviews.
The analysis shows that material practices do not inherently benefit pupils on the spectrum, but can be used to ‘de-representationalise’ learning in certain circumstances, particularly where inherent social meanings are more easily made visible. Three realities of learning for an autistic pupil will be described, namely, thinking about maths, doing ‘hard work’ and making mistakes, and asking sensitive questions about the social world. Findings indicate that supportive relationships and the social construction of knowledge are also important sources of support for autistic pupils. The study has implications for practice since it highlights the fact that a specialised discourse of autism and education is not shared by within inclusive settings and may serve only to obscure what is in place and operating effectively in some settings.
Edwards, R. and Fenwick, T. (2015). Critique and politics: a sociomaterialist intervention. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47(13-14): 1385-1404. Fenwick, T., Edwards, R. and Sawchuk, P. (2011). Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Socio-Material. Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge. Florian, L. and Beaton, M. (2018). Inclusive pedagogy in action: getting it right for every child, International Journal of Inclusive Education 22 (8): 870-884. Nadesan, M. H. (2005). Constructing Autism: Unravelling the ‘Truth’ and Understanding the Social. London and New York: Routledge. Webster, R. and Blatchford, P. (2015). Worlds apart? The nature and quality of the educational experiences of pupils with a statement for special educational needs in mainstream primary schools, British Educational Research Journal 41 (2): 324-342.
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