Choosing and Securing Secondary Provision for Their Child on the Autistic Spectrum – An Action Research Project Investigating Parental Motivations, Experiences and Suggestions for Improvement to Practice

Prof Doc Thesis


Somner, L. 2022. Choosing and Securing Secondary Provision for Their Child on the Autistic Spectrum – An Action Research Project Investigating Parental Motivations, Experiences and Suggestions for Improvement to Practice. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v3q7
AuthorsSomner, L.
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Abstract

Previous research has shown that choosing a secondary school for a child with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is very difficult for parents, with parents emphasising the weight and anxiety of the decision-making process. The Children and Families Act (2014), more than any legislation before it, has embedded the right to parental choice and voice when choosing a secondary school. However, there is scant research into parental experiences of securing appropriate secondary placements for their child with an ASD; additionally, no research to date considered how the statutory processes and practices triggered by the 2014 legislation, and accompanying Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice, have impacted parental perception, experiences, and decision-making. To extend the evidence base, this action research project set out with two aims - firstly to explore, via semi-structured interviews, the experiences and motivations of parent participants (n=7) when choosing and securing secondary provision for their autistic child; secondly, via a focus group (n=5), to actively seek suggestions from parents about how practices and support could be improved, thereby developing their sphere of influence.
The interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, focusing on both parents' idiographic accounts and patterns across cases. Three key patterns, or ‘Master Themes’ emerged from the cross-case analysis: A difficult journey; Those who prevail and those who become lost; and The factors that influenced choice and decision making. All participants set their school choice experiences within a long and convoluted process, and all described personal, relational and systemic obstacles – often using language and metaphor related to journeys and battles to describe their experiences. They felt helped by allies but hindered by wider systems. There was a sense, both conscious and unconscious, of personal metamorphosis and growth, of the educational journey with their child changing them, or forcing them to change and acquire personal power, sometimes knowingly subverting processes. The findings were contextualised with reference to a theoretical and conceptual framework developed by the researcher, which includes relevant paradigms such as Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory and Bordieuan Cultural Capital.
Provocative propositions developed during the focus group’s Appreciative Inquiry, encapsulated suggestions for improvement to practice relating to: i) improving clarity of communication/information sharing; ii) ensuring meaningful collaboration; and iii) improving outcomes for autistic children.
Implications for practice and possibilities for future research were also considered.

KeywordsSecondary school choice; parental experience; autism; action research
Year2022
PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v3q7
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Publication dates
Online31 Oct 2022
Publication process dates
Submitted04 Jul 2022
Deposited31 Oct 2022
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