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A child is absorbed in playing with brightly coloured building bricks

Finding new ways to help autistic children cope with change

Published: 9 August 2022

Southampton education experts are leading a unique collaboration with local schools and nurseries. The work captures the perspectives of children with autism who often struggle when changing schools or moving between education settings.

“Many autistic children have difficulties with social communication. Our research focuses on how to access the voices and views of children in meaningful ways to give educational settings a real understanding of each child.”

Improving research and practice

The initiative is called the Autism Community Research Network Southampton (ACoRNS). It researches and shares educational good practice for children on the autism spectrum. 

Professor Parsons explains that there’s a gap between research and practice, particularly in autism education:

“We work with schools to generate research questions that are relevant to them. This way we can answer these questions and continually improve practice together.”

Capturing children’s views

The team spent several months working with Aviary Nursery in Eastleigh. They worked with children, parents and practitioners to create digital video stories. The children wore ‘wear-cams’ to record their own experiences.

Sarah comments:

“As far as I’m aware, this hasn’t been done before. It’s a very powerful way to help schools to get to know a particular child.”

When an autistic child moves to primary school they usually have a healthcare plan. The plan focuses on the things a child is unable to do and what the school must do to support that child.

“There’s very little to represent the views of the child themselves. With these videos we aim to give schools a better sense of who the child is as a person.”

Dr Hanna Kovshoff - ACoRNS co-director and Associate Professor in Developmental Psychology

Sharing good practice

The team have created a guide to help parents, nurseries and schools make their own digital stories to help other educational organisations use the approach. 

They also share good practice in a range of activities, including:

  • undergraduate teaching
  • research training
  • undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral projects
  • workshops for trainee teachers and educational psychologists
  • local authority workshops

As a result of the Southampton collaboration, the University of Sussex have created Autism Community Research Network Sussex.

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