Towards better support for high-functioning autistic learners in a mainstream sixth form classroom

Hopp, Sarah Ann (2022) Towards better support for high-functioning autistic learners in a mainstream sixth form classroom. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This conceptual Dissertation emerged from my personal professional experiences as the Head of Additional Learning Support and Inclusion at a London Sixth Form College. The study considers the ways in which support for 16 to 19-year-old autistic learners who are deemed as high functioning might be improved. Initially I analyse current educational policy and legislation, using Martha Nussbaum’s version of the Capabilities Approach as an analytical lens. I argue that an education system based on a commodified, meritocratic, standardised, and neoliberal understanding of success has had a detrimental impact on both the flourishing and working relationships of high-functioning autistic learners and their teachers in the classroom. I contend that this type of education system focuses on employability skills using narrow understandings of human flourishing and what it means to be human. I suggest that Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach offers an alternative value system based on the recognition of human dignity and a broader and deeper understanding of what it means to be human by acknowledging and embracing different ways of thinking and being. I then discuss the difficulties high-functioning autistic learners encounter with social communication and functioning and feeling misunderstood which, I argue, are compounded by the pressures caused by the current meritocratic commodified education system. Additionally, and following Nussbaum’s work on emotions, I argue that key to the improvement of the understanding and support of high-functioning autistic learners in the classroom is a dialogical, empathetic, and compassionate working relationship between the teacher and the learner, both of whom are on a mutual learning journey. I then discuss how this relationship can be enhanced with the values of Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach practically implemented using Armstrong’s Positive Niche Construction. I contend, in my conclusion, that this approach to education will benefit not only high functioning autistic learners but all learners.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Professor Nicki and Enslin, Professor Penny
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82873
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 May 2022 14:23
Last Modified: 13 May 2022 14:23
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82873

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