“I had no control over myself or my education”: mainstream school refusal from the perspectives of young people on the autism spectrum.

Masters Thesis

Reed, P. 2021. “I had no control over myself or my education”: mainstream school refusal from the perspectives of young people on the autism spectrum. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Humanities and Educational Studies
AuthorsReed, P.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMasters by Research

Young people on the autism spectrum are more likely to experience school refusal than their neurotypical peers. However, research is dominated by the neurotypical experience and where autism is directly addressed, it is done so from the perspective of parents or professionals. By hearing from young people on the autism spectrum about their school refusal, it is hoped that this study is an early step in redressing the imbalance seen so far. This qualitative study, built on a social constructivist and communitarian paradigm, which views participants as experts, utilised online conferencing software to record parent-child conversations about their school refusal experiences. Participants were four young people on the autism spectrum between the ages of 10-18, who have experienced school refusal in a mainstream setting in one Local Authority in the South of England. The heterogeneous nature of school refusal is widely accepted; however, the School Environment, Peer Relationships and Teacher Relationships have emerged as dominant themes for participants when explored through the lens of school based factors, which this thesis focussed upon. Conclusions show that the influencing factors for school refusal identified by students on the autism spectrum include student-teacher relationships, being both listened to and heard by staff and peers, the values of the school system and ultimately the overwhelming culmination of factors at play. Framed through personal anecdotes, emotional responses and mental health reactions (such as anxiety and depression), participants demonstrated the very personal nature of school refusal. Recommendations include further research with an emphasis on student voice and participation, teacher training which contains examples of effective and positive working relationships with students on the autism spectrum, the early identification of risk factors, and a call for changes to academic outcomes as the single measure of schools.

KeywordsMainstream school refusal ; Perspectives of young people; Autism spectrum.
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Publication process dates
Deposited08 Nov 2022
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