University of Sussex
Shepherd, Jacqueline.pdf (5.17 MB)

‘Hopefully if I like get the right support at college, I’ll be able to like find my way and all that if you know what I mean?’ Experiences of transition from special school to mainstream college for young people with autism

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posted on 2023-06-09, 01:38 authored by Jacqui Shepherd
This thesis investigates the transition of young people with autism moving from a small, protected and personalised special school environment to a large, busy mainstream college of further education in England. Whilst potentially unsettling for any young person, this transition can be particularly challenging for young people with autism given a desire for predictability and difficulty in adapting to change. This longitudinal research focused on the experience of transition from the point of view of the young people and their parents, and it contributes to the somewhat limited research on post-16 transitions for young people with autism and learning difficulties. Six young people were at the heart of my research but their parents, teachers, lecturers and careers advisers were also interviewed. A key aim of the research was to develop methods to engage and support the young people in an interview process, without influencing their responses too much or restricting their contributions. With this in mind, ‘interrupted interviews’ were developed that involved both the use of collage and card sort applications on a tablet, and walking interviews around the college environment. These methods helped to personalise the interview process, to hear the individual student voices and to facilitate communication about the concerns and experiences of the participants. The research findings demonstrate that young people with autism have aspirations, interests and concerns as they progress towards adulthood; that they both seek and enjoy social interaction and that young people and parents need support during and after transition. The tensions between independence and vulnerability are explored as well as the notion of interdependence. While some of the young people in this research made reasonably smooth transitions to college, there were difficulties and challenges, and these lay almost entirely within the area of social interaction. In order for young people with autism and learning difficulties to progress both academically and socially, there needs to be a greater understanding of autism within the whole college community and proper attention given to personalising the transition process to ensure that these young learners can realise their capabilities.


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