How students on the autism spectrum experience higher education

CONNOLLY, Stephen (2020). How students on the autism spectrum experience higher education. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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As an autistic student, researcher, and lecturer, I am alarmed to see the acknowledgment within literature, that autistic students are the most likely of all students to fail at university. This is despite autistic students being categorised as high achievers within education. This raises an important question, why are autistic students who are considered academically able, still not graduating? To investigate this, seven autistic students (including myself) engaged in emanciparticipatory research to explore our experiences as students who identify as autistic in Higher Education (HE). The emanciparticipatory approach taken for this study was developed during and for this research, as a means of addressing the issues with traditional participatory and emanciparticipatory research. Emanciparticipatory is a flexible methodology that aims to develop engagement through accessibility and addressing the researcher-participant relationship, whilst being achievable within the constraints of academia. To do this each student engaged via a means that suited them, they were given as much control as possible and engaged as much or as little as they chose. The research produced a wealth of data some spanning over four years. Analysis of this data identified five key themes: control of label, sociality, wellbeing, academic supports and additional labour of being a disabled autistic student. These themes revealed how hostile the ‘whole university experience’ can be, with student goals switching from academic success to surviving in the face of multiple barriers. Yet, the students did not face a complete onslaught of challenges, at times for some, the practice that they encountered from staff and the adaptions to the environment, learning and peer-to-peer relationships promoted a healthy environment where students could engage and indeed succeed beyond their expectations. From these experiences we then make a number of recommendations to promote good practice and challenge poor practice both within university and research.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Hodge, Nick [0000-0001-5706-1865]
Thesis advisor - ,
Additional Information: Director of studies: Professor Nicholas Hodge
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2021 16:17
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:04

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