The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School
(023) 8059 2977

Professor Sarah Parsons BSc, PhD

Professor of Autism and Inclusion, Director of Research

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Sarah Parsons is Professor of Autism and Inclusion within Southampton Education School at the University of Southampton.

Sarah joined the School in 2011. She has significant research experience in disability related projects and particular interests in the use of innovative technologies for children with autism, the views and experiences of disabled children and their families, evidence-based practices in autism, and research ethics relating to children and young people. Sarah is especially interested in working in collaboration with others in the context of participatory design and inclusive research. Following a PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Nottingham, Sarah has led and managed research encompassing a range of methodological and analytical approaches, using qualitative and quantitative techniques, and is skilled in the development and application of child-centred methodologies for accessing the views of children with special educational needs. Sarah is regularly invited to national and international conferences to talk about her research including invitations to Russia, Kazakhstan, Monaco, Spain, Sweden and France.

Current and recent research includes:

Previous research includes the COSPATIAL project funded by the European Commission (€1.65M) which explored the use of innovative technologies for supporting social skills and collaborative working for children with and without autism:; research on using immersive and desktop Virtual Reality for supporting social skills and understanding for children on the autism spectrum; researching the ‘voices’ of disabled children about their experiences of mainstream and specialist education in the UK; and investigating ‘good adult outcomes’ for the Autism Education Trust: Sarah was also co-Investigator on the ‘Shape Project’ funded by the ESRC which uses digital stories to explore how teachers embed innovative technologies in their curriculum:





Research interests

  • Inclusive design, development, application and evaluation of innovative technologies for children on the autism spectrum
  • Educational provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs
  • Assistive technologies for children, young people and adults
  • Family perspectives on educational provision and supporting children with special educational needs
  • Young people’s views on sensitive or difficult topics
  • Description and evaluation of ‘best practice’ in educational provision and assessment for children and young people on the autism spectrum
  • Participatory approaches to research
  • Ethical considerations in research especially regarding the involvement of disabled children and young people
  • Inclusive methods for accessing the views of children and young people with disabilities or SEN

Examples of Recent Funded Research

2015-17: ProSocialLearn:

2015-16: ASCmeI.T.:

2014-16: Innovative technologies for autism critical reflections on digital bubbles

2009 – 2012 Communication and Social Participation: Collaborative Technologies for Interaction And Learning (COSPATIAL)

2008 – 2010 Extended Services Provision in a large urban Local Authority: Phase Three Evaluation

2008 International review of the literature of evidence of best practice provision in the education of persons with autistic spectrum disorders

2006 - 2008 Inclusive design and development of virtual environments for social understanding of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders

2006 – 2007 Understanding of epilepsy by children and young people with, or without, epilepsy

2006 Duty to promote Disability Equality

2004 – 2006 Experiences of disabled children and their families – phases 1 & 2

Research group(s)

Centre for Research in Inclusion

Research project(s)

Communication and Social Participation: Collaborative Technologies for Interaction And Learning (COSPATIAL)

How should education be provided to children and young people with autism to prepare them for good adult outcomes? (Parsons) - Dormant

PRICE (Participation and Responsible Innovation in Co-Design for Exchange)

The TimeBank is a community initiated concept from our external partner Barod aimed at matching people needing and offering skills and at addressing problems associated with payment.

  • Module leader for Autism Spectrum Disorders (EDUC 3036) for BSc Education
  • Module leader for Understanding Education Research (EDUC 6353) for MSc Education
  • Module leader for Special Educational Needs (EDUC1042) for BSc Education
  • External Examiner, MA in Special and Inclusive Education, Institute of Education, UCL
  • Reviews Editor and Board Member for the International Journal of Research & Method in Education
  • Editorial Board Member for the Journal of Assistive Technologies and the European Journal of Special Needs Education
  • Peer Reviewer of manuscripts for many academic journals including: Autism, British Journal of Developmental Disabilities, British Journal of Special Education, Computers & Education, Educational Research, Educational Research Review, Educational Review, Educational and School Psychology, European Journal of Special Needs Education, International Journal of Research and Method in Education, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs
  • Peer reviewer for proposals to the ERSC; The Big Lottery Fund; The Israel Science Foundation; The Croatian Science Foundation; Autism Speaks; the Daphne Jackson Trust; the National Institute of Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR); Spencer Foundation; Wellcome Trust; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
  • Member of the ESRC Peer Review College
  • Expert Reviewer for the European Commission
  • Member of the British Educational Research Association (BERA)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


Book Section(s)



Professor Sarah Parsons
Southampton Education School University of Southampton Building 32 Southampton SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number: 32/2059

Telephone: (023) 8059 2977

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