Children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and their Experiences of School Belonging: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Hammond, A. 2021. Children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and their Experiences of School Belonging: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsHammond, A.
TypeProf Doc Thesis


Children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are considered a vulnerable population of learners. Their complex neurodevelopmental profiles and ‘invisible’ disabilities can present as challenging for educators and may curtail full and meaningful participation in school life. Despite the high numbers of children with FASD believed to be within the British education system, knowledge and understanding amongst UK professionals remains scant. What is more, there exists a dearth of research which has given pupils with FASD a voice to share their school experiences.


This qualitative research study explored the lived experiences of school belonging from the perspectives of four children (aged 7-10 years) with a known diagnosis of FASD. Data was collected using remote semi-structured interviews and sought to explore what helps children with FASD to belong in UK mainstream primary schools. Participants were invited to represent their views using drawing and modelling. Discrepancies between their perceived sense of school belonging and preferred sense of school belonging were explored. The data was analysed using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach.


All four of the children with FASD felt like they belonged in their respective schools and told of factors which facilitated their positive belongingness experiences. These were grouped into four superordinate themes: School Ethos and Sense of Community, Relatedness to Peers, Staff Attributes and Teaching Practices, and Myself as a Learner. The findings provide support for Allen et al’s. (2016) Socio-Ecological Framework of School Belonging.


It is anticipated that this research will go some way towards raising the profile of FASD amongst frontline educational professionals in the UK. Given children and young people with FASD are vulnerable to disrupted schooling, strengthening their belongingness to school may be one way in which to promote positive and inclusive school experiences and mimimise the risk of secondary disabilities.

KeywordsFoetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD); School Belonging; IPA; Lived Experience; PAE; Children; Mainstream; Primary
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
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Publication dates
Online01 Oct 2021
Publication process dates
Submitted17 Jul 2021
Deposited01 Oct 2021
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