The Wrong Kind of Noise: Understanding and Valuing the Communication of Autistic Children in Schools


Wood, R. 2018. The Wrong Kind of Noise: Understanding and Valuing the Communication of Autistic Children in Schools. Educational Review.
AuthorsWood, R.

As a result of the association of autism with speech and language difficulties, autistic school children can be subject to interventions ostensibly intended to remedy these problems. However, my study, based in five mainstream primary schools in England, which incorporated the views and experiences of school staff (n = 36), autistic children (n = 10), their parents (n = 10) and a sample of autistic adults (n = 10), suggests that these inputs do not always provide the children with the help they require. Indeed, notwithstanding some examples of effective assistance, the more evident communication of the autistic children, in its various manifestations, might be ignored and their wishes denied, if deemed not to correspond with the expectations or intentions of the supporting adult. Furthermore, their communication was also found to intersect with the issue of noise in schools, a complex phenomenon which can be an exclusionary factor for autistic children. Indeed, if some forms of noise were tolerated in school, the sounds emanating from autistic children might be disdained, while the communicative value of their silence was not evidently recognised either. Therefore, whether speaking, making noises or remaining silent, autistic children can be deemed to be making the wrong kind of noise. Elucidated via empirical examples from my study, the implications for research and practice are discussed, providing alternative perspectives on how to support the communication of autistic children, leading to greater agency, well-being and educational inclusion on their part.

JournalEducational Review
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/00131911.2018.1483895
Web address (URL)
Publication dates
Online29 Jun 2018
Publication process dates
Accepted24 May 2018
Deposited06 Nov 2019
Copyright holder© 2018 Taylor & Francis
Copyright informationThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Educational Review on 29/06/2018, available online:
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Accepted author manuscript

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