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Building the evidence base through school-research partnerships in autism education: the Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton [ACoRNS]

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Abstract

This paper describes the development of a partnership model designed to bring practitioners in education and researchers together to co-construct research questions and projects that address their priorities. The authors argue that a divide exists between research and practice that means the research that is done often fails to give the information that practitioners seek or value. ACoRNS has facilitated a number of small scale projects, often conducted by University students, and a key principle of their work is to involve the autistic children and young people directly. The authors are very encouraged by the work that has been done in its first 18 months, with only a small amount of funding, and suggest that other ACoRNS might be set up across the country. Their hope is that in future, the findings of educational research provide evidence that is relevant and helpful to those engaged in understanding and teaching autistic children and young people. Linking researchers, practitioners and students who need to undertake research as part of their qualification makes a great deal of sense. It does require a great deal of time and effort to set up and maintain, but the benefits and impact can be significant . Readers who want to find out more can go to www.acornsnetwork.org.uk).
Building the evidence base through school-research partnerships in autism education
GAP,20,1, 2019 5
Building the evidence base through school-research partnerships in autism education
Building the evidence base through school-
research partnerships in autism education
Address for
correspondence
E-mail:
s.j.parsons@soton.ac.uk
Acknowledgements
ACoRNS was established
with funding from
the University of
Southampton’s Public
Engagement with
Research unit [PERu],
and supported by the
Economic and Social
Research Council’s
(ESRC) Festival of Social
Science [Ref: SI9068110],
and the Froebel Trust.
Many thanks especially
to ACoRNS volunteers
Sophie Hall and Jenny
Harper for administrative
support.
* At the time of writing, the
partners include Aviary nurs-
ery and the following schools
- New Forest, Springwell,
Blackeld, Bitterne Park and
two FE colleges, Totton and
Richard Taunton and an
autism specialist residential
school, Hill House.
The author has declared
no conict of interest.
practice is an uneasy one, with some scepticism on
both sides. There are also many gaps, both in terms
of the questions that are explored, and there may be
little research on specic groups of children and young
people (eg in terms of age, gender, intellectual ability,
looked after children).
Introduction
How do we know whether what we do makes any
difference in autism education? This is one of the key
questions asked by teachers, parents and carers,
practitioners and education researchers. Answers
are often elusive and unclear, leading to another fre-
quently asked question: What does the research say?
Unfortunately, the relationship between research and
Building the evidence base
through school-research
partnerships in autism education:
The Autism Community Research
Network @ Southampton [ACoRNS]
Sarah Parsons and Hanna Kovshoff on behalf of ACoRNS
partners*, Southampton, UK
Editorial comment
This paper describes the development of a partnership model designed to bring practi-
tioners in education and researchers together to co-construct research questions and
projects that address their priorities. The authors argue that a divide exists between
research and practice that means the research that is done often fails to give the
information that practitioners seek or value. ACoRNS has facilitated a number of small
scale projects, often conducted by university students, and a key principle of its work is
to involve the autistic children and young people directly. The authors are very encour-
aged by the work that has been done in its rst 18 months, with only a small amount
of funding, and suggest that other ACoRNS might be set up across the country. Their
hope is that in future, the ndings of educational research provide evidence that is
relevant and helpful to those engaged in understanding and teaching autistic children
and young people. Linking researchers, practitioners and students who need to under-
take research as part of their qualication makes a great deal of sense. It does require
considerable time and effort to set up and maintain, but the benets and impact can be
signicant. Readers who want to nd out more can go to www.acornsnetwork.org.uk.
GAP_text_Spring_2019.indd 5 29/05/2019 10:17
Building the evidence base through school-research partnerships in autism education
6 GAP,20,1, 2019
All of these factors mean that many knowledge claims
about ‘what works’ in education tend to come from outside
classroom practices and, therefore, may be met with
understandable scepticism and concerns about their
relevance and feasibility by education professionals
(Biesta, 2007). At the same time, there has been a long-
standing appreciation and implementation of action
research approaches, carried out by practitioners,
typically within their own contexts (Rudduck and
Hopkins, 1985). Such approaches have revealed that
important and valuable insights emerge about practice
that would not be possible to gain in other ways.
The challenge with both of these ways of thinking
about and doing educational research (ie researchers
doing research without practice considerations, and
practitioners doing research within their own settings)
is that a dichotomy is set up and maintained between
where and how knowledge is generated and shared
(Huberman, 1990). For professional researchers,
knowledge is often gained through research confer-
ences and peer-reviewed papers; for professional
educators’ knowledge is often gained through confer-
ences and professional networks. Some have a foot in
both camps; they are not inherently opposing positions
and both roles make valuable contributions to know-
ledge. However, it means that research and practice
often remain exclusive to each other. As Guldberg
(2017) argues, this is an especially acute problem
in autism education research because the research
agenda has been dominated by academic disciplines
that adopt a medical model, rather than a social
model of disability, and have little to do with education
(eg coming from psychiatry and clinical psychology).
With generally poor social, academic and occupational
outcomes still being reported for autistic individuals
(eg Ayres et al, 2017), there is a need to think differently
about the relationship between research and practice.
Creating a ‘research-rich, self-improving’
educational system
This subtitle comes from the wide ranging BERA-RSA
(2014) inquiry into the role of research in teacher
education. In opening its report, the authors summa-
rised the inquiry’s main purpose and argument thus:
Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton
[ACoRNS], is an education focused research–practice
partnership that aims to address these gaps and
answer important questions that practitioners ask.
It places the views and experiences of autistic children
and young people at the centre.
Traditional ‘ways of knowing’ in autism
educational research: the gap between
research and practice
There is a substantial, longstanding gap between autism
educational research and autism educational prac-
tices in everyday classrooms (Reichow, Volkmar and
Cicchetti, 2008) and between educational research and
practice more generally (Huberman, 1990). There are
many interrelated and mutually reinforcing reasons for
this gap in the autism eld but chief amongst these are:
the generation of research evidence in
articially created contexts that bear little
relation to real schools and classrooms
(Parsons and Kasari, 2013)
the dominance of autism education research
by interventions that are generated from
clinical and experimental practice, rather than
pedagogical, concerns (Guldberg, Parsons,
Porayska-Pomsta and Keay-Bright, 2017)
the perpetuation of research agendas and
designs that are driven primarily by researchers
and research interests rather than practitioners
and practitioner interests (Guldberg, 2017)
the failure to include teachers and teaching
expertise in research on ‘what works’ in
schools (Parsons et al, 2011)
the lack of accessible information, both
practically and meaningfully, for practitioners
(Greenway, McCollow, Hudson, Peck and
Davis, 2013); and
a general prioritisation of particular forms
of knowledge over others, ie formal
academic knowledge over the craft
knowledge and experience of practitioners
(Guldberg et al, 2017)
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The development of the Autism
Community Research Network @
Southampton (ACoRNS)
ACoRNS formally began in late 2016 following a
successful application to the University of
Southampton’s Public Engagement with Research unit
(PERu) for funding (approximately £5,000). However,
its inception really began a few years before this: rst
with the fermentation of, and reection on, experiences
gained through the PLASN-R initiative, and secondly
through local practitioners – from a special school
supporting children aged 8 to 19 years (New Forest
School) and an inclusive day nursery (Aviary Nursery)
– getting in touch to ask about opportunities to establish
links with researchers in education at the university.
Coupled with a sharing of professional and research
interests between colleagues in Psychology and
Education at the university, there was a nascent basis
for establishing a local research-practice partnership.
The funding from PERu enabled ACoRNS to start its
work. Early meetings focused on establishing shared
priorities and interests. The two areas identied and
agreed upon by the group were transitions and trajec-
tories. Both these raised concerns for teachers, pupils
and parents, and for researchers. Transitions can be
‘big’ or ‘vertical’ (ie between schools or year groups)
and can be ‘small’ or ‘horizontal’ (though no less
signicant), such as the daily transitions that pupils
encounter (eg from home to school, between class-
rooms and activities). Trajectories, in essence, mean a
focus on understanding how autistic children’s learning
and development can best be supported during their
time in education. ACoRNS joint mission was agreed
as improving the lives of autistic children and young
people through placing their views and voices at the
core of all that is done. It was deemed crucial to ensure
representation from across all stages of schooling and
across a range of settings. The core network was built
via personal contacts and recommendations; in addi-
tion to the founding members, the network includes
a special primary school (Springwell), a mainstream
primary (Blackeld) and secondary school (Bitterne
Park), two Further Education (FE) colleges (Totton,
Richard Taunton) and an autism specialist residential
school (Hill House).
“This… Inquiry…makes the case for the
development, across the UK, of self-improving
education systems in which teachers are
research literate and have opportunities for
engagement in research and enquiry. This
requires that schools and colleges become
research-rich environments in which to work.
It also requires that teacher researchers
and the wider research community work
in partnership, rather than in separate
and sometimes competing universes.”
(Executive Summary, p.5; our emphasis)
Most crucially, the authors recognised that in creating
such an environment, teachers should be ‘active agents
in research’ (page 8), but also that this expectation must
not overburden teachers for whom responsibilities and
expectations are already substantial. So, although action
research has an important role to play in educational
improvement, the ACoRNS model for working in partner-
ship does not rely on teachers conducting research
directly, or by themselves. Rather, the ACoRNS model
for school-research partnership in autism education
recognises and respects that practitioners and
researchers share a common interest and aspiration
in understanding ‘what works’ for children and young
people. The model recognises that practitioners
and researchers bring different, but complementary
expertise and knowledge to answering practice based
questions and, so the division of labour can be planned
and managed accordingly.
The ACoRNS model builds on preliminary work carried
out with the Pan-London Autism Schools Network–
Research (PLASN-R) partnership (Parsons et al, 2013).
This group initially comprised a group of senior leaders
from mainstream and special schools from across
London who were meeting on a regular basis to share
knowledge and experiences in supporting autistic
children. They realised that there were questions that
would benet from the involvement of researchers
and so invited a group of researchers to join them.
Parsons et al (2013) outlined the collaborative activities
undertaken with the schools as the model became
established; information about more recent activities
can be found in CRAE (2018).
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8 GAP,20,1, 2019
Two autistic students from ACoRNS partners, New
Forest School (Bayleigh) and Totton College (Josh)
attended the launch. Bayleigh talked about how his
educational experiences affected his life and his
aspirations. Josh talked about college life and how this
impacted on his future career plans. Delegates found
both students ‘inspiring’ and ‘giving hope’, empha-
sising the awareness and insight given on what it is
like to be an autistic student. Pupils and parents from
Blackeld Primary school helped create a video about
the transitional education challenges they faced on a
daily basis and in the longer term. All videos from the
launch are available on the ACoRNS website: http://
acornsnetwork.org.uk/2017/09/acorns-launch-event/
Sustaining ACoRNS through joint
projects and activities
Since the launch, a range of projects and activities
have been developed, drawing on different resources
to support each one. These have been focused on
building the evidence base through original research
and raising awareness of ACoRNS more generally
among the local community and the university students.
The key message is that evidence based or informed
practice does not come from ‘somewhere else’, rather
it comes from our own practice, coupled with a willing-
ness to work together with researchers to understand
what really works in different settings.
Enrolling university students as
researchers
The ACoRNS model uses the signicant resources avail-
able within university settings to build the evidence base
through locally meaningful projects. Students studying
on a range of courses are keen to work on authentic and
valued projects and are often very interested in autism
and special educational needs. Projects have involved
Education and Psychology students, including autistic
students, at undergraduate, Masters and Doctoral
levels, all of whom are required to complete an original
research project as part of their degree. Funding from
the university was given for a summer internship for one
of the students to continue to contribute.
Tab le 1 summarises the projects that students have
undertaken during the academic year 2017–2018
Difference between ACoRNS
and PLASN-R
There is a distinctive difference between the early
work of PLASN-R (Parsons et al, 2013) and the estab-
lishment of ACoRNS. The former was described as a
model for knowledge exchange at best (Parsons et al,
2013), whereby research and practice were intended
to be mutually informing but where caution about
simply sticking to a knowledge transfer model was also
agged. That is, there was a need to avoid
“simply making the outputs of research more
accessible and practitioner-friendly which, by
themselves, are unlikely to persuade teachers
to implement new practices” (page 277).
Although there was a commitment to working collabor-
atively in PLASN-R, this was not embedded from the
start. In other words, the research team was invited
to join an already existing group of practitioners, and
so shared priorities for research and practice were
not established from the outset in the same way. By
contrast, ACoRNS was very explicitly positioned and
established as a model of research co-construction
from its inception. Such an approach aims to be more
inclusive by creating a space where there is joint devel-
opment of, and responsibility for, a research agenda
that is informed by the needs and context of practice.
The research agenda then seeks to directly inform and
enhance those needs and contexts, through building
knowledge through research and reecting collabora-
tively on what has been learned.
The launch of ACoRNS
ACoRNS was formally launched at the University of
Southampton in June 2017. This event was open to
families and schools from the local community, as well
as to professionals, students and other academics.
More than 30 people attended and this provided an
opportunity for the local autism community to share
the challenges and questions that they had faced.
Attendees were asked to write down their concerns
and what kind of research questions they would like to
see ACoRNS address. These suggestions have been
used to inform specic projects (see Tab le 1).
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Table 1: Summary of ACoRNS student projects to date
Name of student and
level of study
Title of the project
[* linked projects]
Project participants and context
Status
Jen Pickles DEdPsych
Looked-after children on the autism
spectrum: pathways, provisions and
perspectives
Range of provision including special and mainstream
Aiming for 15 Virtual School Heads, 15 Designated
Teachers, and c. 8 looked-after students, aged
12 to 16 years
Commenced 2018
Summaries to be made available on the ACoRNS website
once projects are completed
Ankita Gurung
MSc Education
How do schools access and respond to
the views of autistic pupils about their
educational experiences? A qualitative
study with partner schools from the
ACoRNS Project
Range of provision across the ACoRNS partnership
Interviews with c. 15 teaching professionals about
methods used to capture pupil voice and the
priorities that children identify
Jess Kevash
MSc Research Methods
in Psychology
Processes recording and monitoring
autism spectrum diagnoses within the
looked-after children population in one
local authority.
Interviews with key local authority staff members
including the Virtual School Head, Designated
Teachers, and Educational Psychologists.
Understanding how information is shared in different
educational settings (early years, primary, secondary,
pupil referral units, special educational placements,
and Further Education).
Amber Warren
BSc (Hons) Education
and Psychology
Exploring transitions and resourced
provision for children with autism in a
mainstream school: pupil and teacher
perspectives.
Special school with a resourced provision at a
mainstream primary
Six autistic pupils aged 9 to 11 years, 3 to 4
class teachers / teaching assistants
Ciara Boys
BSc (Hons) Education
and Psychology
To what extent does an autistic child’s
behaviour differ between school and
home? Children, teachers and parents’
perspectives.
Mainstream primary school
7 autistic children (reception and Year 6),
7 parents/carers, 6 staff members
Chantelle Zilli
DEdPsych
The participation of children with autism
in decision making: a case study of one
school
Specialist provision from 8 to 19 years
4 autistic pupils (aged 11 to 15 years),
2 carers and 11 staff members
Completed 2018
Summaries for all projects available from the ACoRNS website
Sarah Galea
MSc Education
Managing educational transition for
students with autism from preschool to
primary education
Mainstream: inclusive day nursery +
2 primary schools
9 staff members (3 from each school)
Tracey Emery
MSc in Clinical and
Developmental
Neuropsychology
(Bournemouth University)
Investigating the numbers of Children in
Care with autism
Analysing data from Freedom of Information
requests received from 147 local authorities
in England
Felix Perkes
BSc (Hons) Psychology
The voices and experiences of children
with autism, and their families, in their
transitions from nursery to primary school*
Inclusive day nursery
4 autistic children (aged 4 years), 4 parents,
5 staff members
Jessica Baker
BSc (Hons) Education
and Psychology
Exploring the experiences of transitions
from nursery to primary school from the
perspectives of children with Autism
Spectrum Disorder*
Inclusive day nursery
3 autistic children (aged 4 years), 4 parents,
3 staff members
Ellie White
BSc (Hons) Psychology
How do children on the autism spectrum
experience transitions in primary school?
Mainstream primary school
3 autistic children (aged 8 to 9 years), 3 parents,
3 staff members
Keri Hoy
BSc (Hons) Education
and Psychology
Exploring the experiences of primary to
secondary transition for children with
autism – student, teacher and parental
perspectives
Mainstream secondary school with resourced
provision
5 autistic students (aged 12 to 16 years), 6 parents /
carers, 4 staff members
Sophie Hall
BSc (Hons) Education
and Psychology
Autism Participatory / co-constructed
partnerships in research: what’s in the
literature?
Exploratory literature review focusing on
participatory or collaborative approaches to
conducting autism research
Caitlin Murray
MSc Foundations of
Clinical Psychology
Educational transitions and trajectories for
children and young people with autism: a
literature review
Systematic literature searches focusing on different
ages / stages of schooling
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Building the evidence base through school-research partnerships in autism education
10 GAP,20,1, 2019
ACoRNS dissemination activities
To promote the message on the value of the ACoRNS
model there have been dissemination opportunities with
and for practitioners. An event was held at Totton (FE)
College as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science in
November 2017. The festival aims to showcase Social
Science research to the general public. The ACoRNS
event was attended by over 40 professionals, parents,
and students. Since then workshops have been held at a
local, practitioner-led inclusion conference and present-
ations made at the Scottish Autism conference in
Glasgow in 2018. ACoRNS also featured in a talk at the
launch of the Chartered College of Teaching’s South
East SEND Network in September 2018, and will be the
focus for a workshop within Hampshire local authority
for over 100 Early Years’ practitioners in March 2019.
Embedding research and practice
into teaching at the university
Research-practice links are embedded within our
teaching wherever possible to raise awareness of,
and develop capacity and interest in, the value of
co-constructed research and practice. As well as
supporting dissertation projects, colleagues from the
ACoRNS network schools have contributed to sessions
for our Education and Psychology Undergraduates
and our Initial Teacher Education Programme. The
ACoRNS model and project examples have also been
used within the taught programme for Educational
Psychologists and for Postgraduate Research students
looking at how to develop impactful research.
Strengths and enabling features
of ACoRNS
ACoRNS has been in existence for just over 18 months
but it is already evident from the range of projects and
activities, and through dissemination, that the model
is of interest to key stakeholders. From the start there
has been buy-in from schools and research questions
have been jointly developed, so research participation
and recruitment has been made easier. This model of
working has benets for all: the research projects have
been successfully completed to plan and the ndings
and summaries genuinely reect upon and potentially
inform practice, ie they are authentic (valid) and trust-
worthy (reliable).
and that are underway in 2018–2019. All focus on
experiences of transitions and trajectories (and related
methods for researching these), and the majority have
included the perspectives of autistic children directly.
There is also a strand of research around the provision
for, and experiences of, autistic looked-after children
following contact from a community member. More
details about each of the projects can be found on
the ACoRNS website: acornsnetwork.org.uk/projects.
All students produce an executive summary of their
projects which is freely available from the website and
available to the participating schools. Two projects
have already been published as peer reviewed papers
(Hoy, Parsons and Kovshoff, 2018; Parsons, McCullen,
Emery and Kovshoff, 2019), with others contributing
to a practitioner focused summary on transitions for
Scottish Autism’s 50th Anniversary conference publi-
cation (Kovshoff et al, 2018).
Funding from the Froebel Trust for a
project on transition from nursery to
school
Since the launch of ACoRNS, external research funding
from the Froebel Trust was granted for a project focus-
ing on the voices and experiences of 4 year old autistic
children as they prepare for their transition to (main-
stream or special) primary school from an inclusive day
nursery. These children were followed during the three
months before their transition, placing their voices and
perspectives at the centre of the research by highlight-
ing their unique trajectories via individual digital stories
(short lms). Digital cameras were used throughout
the nursery to capture children’s choices, explorations
and interactions with staff and other children. A parti-
cularly innovative aspect led by ACoRNS partners
Aviary Nursery, was the use of wearable cameras,
which captured the children’s interactions and choices.
These cameras provided unique insights into children’s
worldviews, including self-talk during self-directed
activities. From feedback so far, these digital stories
could be very valuable in supporting practitioners to
think reectively about their own practices and to think
differently about children’s actions and experiences.
More information about the project can be found at the
autismtransitions.org website.
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Building the evidence base through school-research partnerships in autism education
GAP,20,1, 2019 11
have to be willing to open themselves up to scrutiny
in ways they may not have done before. Our belief is
that the impetus for working in this way initially needs
to come from the schools rather than from researchers.
Concluding comments
Much progress has been made with the ACoRNS
model in a relatively short period of time. Given that
its raison d’etre is to create research which effectively
addresses key questions for practitioners, there is
a need to demonstrate whether the way in which
ACoRNS works is indeed succeeding in this. ACoRNS
partners say they feel they have derived support for
making changes to their practice and validation for the
strategies and work they are doing. Insights from the
research so far have also informed decision making
about provision in some cases, as well as providing
a greater understanding about how further support
can be given to students. Evaluating the impact of the
research done by ACoRNS is a priority over the coming
months and years. Our central question about what
works in education is that given by Biesta (2007, page
10; our emphasis) who argues:
“The most important question for educational
professionals is…not about the effectiveness of
their actions but about the potential educational
value of what they do, that is, about the
educational desirability of the opportunities
for learning that follow from their actions…”
ACoRNS has provided the foundations upon which
professionals can reect on their own practice in ways
that enable them to consider the value and desirability
of opportunities provided to the learners they support.
A key driver in this has been the consultation with and
inclusion of autistic students, who have traditionally not
been at the centre of discussions or decisions on what
is offered and how.
There will be similar priorities identied by different
networks and all the projects in Table 1 could be usefully
replicated in other areas. In short, anyone could have an
ACoRN if they wanted one! Imagine the possibilities for
changing the ways in which educational research in
autism is done and the relevance it could have for children,
The projects conducted within ACoRNS so far are local,
small-scale projects, but this is a strength, rather than
a limitation. In the rst instance, it means that a picture
of local needs and practices is being built up which is
shared and used initially by the participating schools
and then more widely. By weaving together lessons
learned from smaller scale projects, a bigger picture
of main themes or messages that may have wider rel-
evance can emerge. As argued by Mesibov and Shea
(2011; page 125), autism educational research should:
“…use small studies to identify specic strategies
that are effective, rather than focusing on studies
of ‘brand name’ programs. This tactic is likely to
be much more useful for teachers than the large
‘horse race’ studies.”
The ACoRNS model illustrates this principle and how
this can be done in practice.
Challenges and limitations of ACoRNS
There are inevitable challenges and shortcomings to
the model. There is no guaranteed or core funding that
supports the administration of the projects (eg website,
meetings) or the practicalities of day to day costs, such
as equipment or travel to schools for student projects.
The model is reliant on the goodwill of volunteers and
the interest of suitably motivated students, neither of
which are guaranteed. This also means that longer
term strategic planning is more of an aspiration than a
reality. Work is being done to try to secure longer term
funding but this is highly uncertain and time consuming.
Creativity and imagination are certainly needed to
garner support and resources from different sources,
but time to do this is in very short supply. It would
be great to expand the network and what is offered
(eg through organising more research-practice training,
seminars or discussions locally) but currently nancial
constraints make this difcult, if not impossible.
Trust among members and partners is crucial and can
only be built over time and through the shared pieces
of work. One of the central lessons learned is that a
model like ACoRNS is only likely to work when schools
recognise the need to work with other schools, and
with researchers. This can be disconcerting as schools
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12 GAP,20,1, 2019
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White, E (2018) Exploring experiences of educational
transitions for pupils on the autism spectrum Share:
Practice, Knowledge and Innovation Scottish Autism
www.scottishautism.org/sites/default/les/share_
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Parsons, S, Guldberg, K, MacLeod, A, Jones, G,
Prunty, A and Balfe, T (2011) International review of the
evidence on best practice in educational provision for
children on the autism spectrum European Journal of
Special Needs Education 26 (1) 47–63.
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Parsons, S, McCullen, A, Emery, T and Kovshoff, H
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the country. In sharing research priorities, questions and
ndings, a national network could be a game changer in
helping us all to develop a better understanding about
what really works for children and families.
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GAP_text_Spring_2019.indd 12 29/05/2019 10:17
... During a taught session at university in my first year, this interest developed further following a talk exploring the initiatives and aims of the Acorns Community Research Network @ Southampton (ACoRNS). One of their key aims is to co-construct research with the aim of improving the lives of autistic CYP by centralising their voices in all that is done (Parsons et al., 2019). This initiative aligned with my values and research interests and, hence, provided me with the unique opportunity and inspiration to conduct my research in an area I was, and continue to be, incredibly passionate about. ...
... of the autistic young people have a communication difficulty and use alternative and augmentative communication and over half of the young people are non-verbal.Hill House school is a member of the Autism Community Research Network @Southampton (ACoRNS), which is an education focused research to practice partnership that aims to build the evidence-base through the co-construction of research by working in partnership with local education settings to identify research questions and address them together. ACoRNS has a core aim of improving the lives of autistic children and young people by placing their views and experiences at the centre of research and practice(Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019), with a key focus on their trajectories and transitions. Since autistic young people's voices are frequently not heard or understood within decision-making(Pellicano, Hill et al., 2014), working in collaboration with the school provided an opportunity to develop effective practices for supporting autistic young people who are frequently marginalised within their transition to adult services. ...
Thesis
The importance of eliciting the voices of children and young people and their participation within decision-making on matters that affect their lives is robustly supported within government guidelines and legislation. However, previous research suggests that due to perceived communication barriers, autistic children and young people are frequently excluded from decision-making and consultations relating to their education planning and omitted from research studies. Autistic children and young people residing in residential schools who have complex needs are further underrepresented within research and decision-making. It is therefore crucial that research develops and evaluates novel and creative methods to ensure the views and voices of young people with complex needs areheard, listened to, and understood. To address these gaps in the literature, I carried out a systematic literature review (Chapter 2) to explore innovative methods that have been developed to elicit the voice of children and young people with complex needs about their educational experiences and preferences, and explored how young people’s voices are represented in these methods. The findings suggests that it is possible to access the views of children and young people with the most complex needs through the creation and use of inclusive methods, which are novel, creative, and individualised to the child or young person. However, crucially, more needs to be done to ensure that their views are acted upon, given due weight, and influence change. In an empirical study (Chapter 3), I have extended and evaluated the use of Digital Stories as a methodology to facilitate knowledge co-creation of young people’s transition trajectories to adulthood. This has been achieved through co-creating three Digital Stories in partnership with autistic young adults and their families, and the care staff and other professionals working within a residential special school. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with key stakeholders to understand their perspectives, experiences, and views on the Digital Story methodology, and its use and impact within each young adult’s transition. Reflexive thematic analysis of interviews led to the generation of five themes: benefits of Digital Stories; humanising approach; ownerships and agency; ethical considerations; and direct impact on practice. The findings suggest that Digital Stories are a powerful methodology, which enable young people’s voices to be heard within transition to adulthood and can provide an authentic, personalised, and positive representations of young people’s views and perspectives.
... My own bias is articulated more fully elsewhere (Parsons et al., 2013;Parsons, Guldberg, Porayska-Pomsta & Lee, 2015;Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019;Parsons, Ivil, Kovshoff & Karakosta, 2020a;Parsons, Kovshoff & Ivil, 2020b) but, in precis, I am committed to participatory methodologies and methods in research conducted with marginalised groups, with the specific intention of addressing the persistent and much acknowledged gap between research and practice in education. My own stance is that addressing the research-practice gap cannot be achieved by simply making research findings more easily discoverable and accessible to practice, or by maintaining an unhelpful dichotomy between research knowledge (implied to be superior) and practice-based knowledge (implied to be inferior) (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1999). ...
... This point appeals to me because it chimes with my own bias of course (Parsons, Yuill, et al., 2020;Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019). At least one of the interviewees in Wyse et al., (2020, p.19) also observed that research and practice are '…both practice communities…they're different practices which intersect'. ...
Article
Full-text available
This commentary is offered in response to the British Educational Research Association (BERA)'s commissioned report on close-to-practice research. In conducting a rapid evidence assessment coupled with a small number of qualitative interviews the report represents an overly dichotomised and partial approach to understanding the relationships between research and practice, and the nature of knowledge generated within such relationships. Specifically, the report fails to adequately address the central importance of collaboration to the generation of knowledge and assumes that knowledge is either academic research or practitioner enquiry, without considering a more integrated, co-constructed 'third space'. I argue that practice-focused research should be fundamentally concerned with making an impact on practice and, therefore, effective collaboration between research and practice necessarily entails grappling with issues of power and democratisation. These are values that underpin and shape research in important ways that must be considered in conceptualisations of methodological quality. I also raise questions about the transparency and quality of decision-making in the close-to-practice BERA report, including whether the six papers identified as 'high quality' by the authors would meet their own definition. Their report is not definitive but rather a catalyst for further discussion. I offer suggestions for some practical steps for how BERA could work to provide a more holistic framing for this vital field of inquiry.
... The importance of the local context and the situated nature of knowledge was recognised from the start as vital if we wanted to influence and improve practice. Together, we pose research questions that come directly from practice and seek to answer them through mobilising the research expertise and resources of the University in conjunction with practice-based expertise and experience (see Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019, for more details). Together, we establish shared priorities and work out how best to address them via research within our local contexts of practice. ...
... As we argue elsewhere (Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019), a critical element in the success of research-practice partnerships is the initiation of interest and ideas that come from practice rather than from a research agenda which may then feel imposed on educators. However, this does not mean that everyone contributes in the same ways or that power is shared tidily across all aspects of our activities; indeed, an imposition of the latter would have been detrimental to our own progress and, therefore, opportunities for learning. ...
Article
Full-text available
Concerns have been raised about the quality of practice-focused research in education generally and in early years education specifically. Pascal and Bertram (2012) argued that a shift in worldview was needed to improve the robustness and overall quality of participatory research in the early years and proposed a 'praxeological framework' for research comprising praxis, power, values, and methodology. This paper provides an example of how their praxeological framework was applied within an existing research-practice partnership focusing on autism education in the early years. We used a 'non-orthodox' Digital Storytelling methodology to co-construct knowledge between researchers, practitioners, children and families about educational transitions. Our co-construction of knowledge involved the embodied knowledge of children and the exemplary (practical) knowledge of families and practitioners, leading to new insights into educational practices. In adopting a knowledge co-creation approach from the start, we established a powerful pathway to impact through which our research is already making a difference to practice. We propose that pathway to impact is an important element that could be made more explicit within a praxeological framing of research.
... There are various approaches to the study of discourse, for example, discursive psychology and critical discourse analysis, with an array of literature available (Anderson & Holloway, 2020). Developed in the 1990s discursive psychology posed questions to conventional thoughts, shifting focus onto how these are interpreted inwardly in one's attitudes, beliefs, and memories (Billig, 1997;Parker, 2004;Edwards, 1994;Hepburn & Wiggins, 2007). This view of discourse implies that psychological concepts are constructed as action-centred and culturally specific (Hepburn & Wiggins, 2007, p.11). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Surfacing the Perspective of Autistic Girls Aged Between Thirteen and Eighteen Within a Complex Social Discourse on Autism: A Qualitative Inquiry
... There has been a recent emphasis on the need for collaborative research partnerships between educational settings and evidence-focused partners. 91, 92 To address this call, 46 more research teams are utilising MoAs or similar to formalise partnerships with the educational settings that participate in their large-scale trials. 93 Although traditionally used in school-school partnerships to share best practice, there is a clear benefit to developing mutually beneficial links between educational settings and evidence-focused partners. ...
Article
Background Prior evidence suggests that behaviours closely related to the intervention delivered for autism are amenable to change, but it becomes more difficult when generalising treatment effects beyond that immediate context. Objectives The objectives were (1) to test an early autism social communication intervention designed to promote child social communication change in the naturalistic contexts of both home and education, with an additive effect on overall child symptom outcomes, and (2) to conduct a mechanistic study investigating the transmission of treatment effects within and across contexts to an overall treatment effect. Design The trial was a three-site, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial of the experimental treatment plus treatment as usual and treatment as usual alone. The primary intention-to-treat analysis used analysis of covariance. The mechanism analysis used regression models to test mediation of the primary outcome by parent–child and education staff (learning support assistant)–child social interactions. Setting The study took place in three urban/semiurban regions in Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and London. Participants Children aged 2–11 years who met the criteria for severe autism. Interventions The Preschool Autism Communication Trial was adapted to parallel components within home and educational settings using in-person and remote delivery. Treatment as usual was the control condition. Main outcome measures The primary outcome was autism symptoms on the Autism Diagnostic Observation schedule-2. The secondary outcomes were Brief Observation of Social Communication Change, dyadic social interaction between child and parent or learning support assistant, reported language, functional outcome and reduction in child disruptive behaviour. Outcomes were measured at baseline and at the 12-month end point in all settings; interim mechanism measurements were taken at 7 months. Results Participants ( n = 249; 122 in the PACT-G group and 127 in the treatment-as-usual group; 51 were female and 197 were male) received a median of 10 (interquartile range 8–12) sessions at home and 8 (interquartile range 5–10) sessions in an educational setting. We found no significant treatment effects on the end-point Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 primary outcome (–0.04, 95% confidence interval –0.26 to 0.18; p = 0.734), on the end-point Brief Observation of Social Communication Change secondary outcome (–0.03, 95% confidence interval –0.31 to 0.25; p = 0.85) or on language, repetitive behaviour, adaptive behaviour and child well-being. We did find significant treatment effects on dyadic interactions (increased parent synchronous response 0.54, 95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.69; p = 0.001); child initiations with a parent (0.27, 95% confidence interval 0.12 to 0.41; p = 0.001); learning support assistant synchronous response (0.32, 95% confidence interval 0.14 to 0.49; p = 0.001); child initiations with a learning support assistant (0.21, 95% confidence interval 0.06 to 0.36; p = 0.005); and unblinded measures of improved parental well-being and child disruptive behaviour across home and educational settings. Adult (parent/learning support assistant) synchronous responsiveness in a home/education setting improved child dyadic social initiation. The child dyadic social initiation was also associated with child symptoms on researcher Brief Observation of Social Communication Change. Limitations The delivered sessional dosage was 83% of that planned in the home setting and 67% in the educational setting, with 5.5% of home sessions and 5% of educational sessions deemed ‘unacceptable’, particularly for remote delivery. A change of therapy learning support assistant was experienced by over one-third of children by the mid-point of the trial, by another third by the end point, and by one-fifth at both points. Conclusions The multicomponent Paediatric Autism Communication Trial – Generalised (PACT-G) treatment for a child in a home or educational setting did not produce the hypothesised improvement in child autism symptomatology or adaptive behaviour, but did produce significant improvements in proximal adult–child reciprocal dyadic communication. Future work Future work will involve building on these results towards a further understanding of delivery options, dosage and multicomponent extension of social communication interventions for young children with autism in naturalistic settings. Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN25378536. Funding This project was funded by the Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme, a Medical Research Council and National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) partnership. This was also part funded by the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London. This will be published in full in Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation ; Vol. 9, No. 3. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.
... Although society has a certain degree of stability, other people in the online community will also be subject to corresponding restrictions. This will reduce the communication of people in the online community and further reduce the exchange of information [11,12]. ...
Article
Full-text available
In order to explore the internal connection between information sharing and investment performance in the venture capital network community, this study took environmental-governance start-ups as the research object and used the 2009–2020 environmental-social enterprise start-up venture capital investment events as a data sample. The successful exit rate of the venture capital portfolio and the successful listing rate of investment ventures were used as the measurement criteria. Combined with regression analysis, the relationship between information sharing and investment performance in the venture capital network community was analyzed in detail. Research shows that there are differences between the ways of information sharing in the venture capital network communities. In the regression results, all coefficients are less than 0.01. There is a positive correlation between information sharing and investment performance in the venture capital network community. With the increase in enterprise characteristic variables, the degree of enterprise risk information sharing is getting higher and higher. This ultimately leads to more and more frequent corporate investment performance and a higher possibility of acquisition. Among them, the degree of information sharing in the venture capital network community is relatively high, and venture capital companies that are supported by corporate venture capital institutions will benefit even more from listed capital. Not only was the analysis of the relationship between finance and investment in the venture capital network community pointed out in this research, but also the investment development of entrepreneurial enterprises was also provided with feasible suggestions.
... Our team are members of the Autism Community Research Network @ Southampton [ACoRNS] which is an education-focused initiative that seeks to improve the lives of autistic children and young people through research and practice working collaboratively to build an evidence base (for further details see Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019). The context for the research was the Aviary Nursery 3 , which is a fully inclusive day nursery in the South of England. ...
Article
Aims: ‘I am…’ Digital Stories are short videos designed to provide a holistic, strengths-based representation of the child through enabling them to contribute their perspectives to transition planning. Digital Stories have potential during periods in which professionals are unable to physically visit settings or spend time getting to know a child. This paper describes the use of Digital Stories in two contexts: (1) being shown at the beginning of person-centred planning meetings focusing on the transition to primary school and (2) as a tool to support educational psychologists conducting Education, Health, and Care Needs Assessments for preschool children during COVID-19. Method: data was collected via seven semi-structured interviews, 15 feedback forms, and videos of four meetings. Participants comprised six parents/carers, five nursery practitioners, three school staff members, and six educational psychologists. Thematic analysis resulted in five main themes: thinking differently; a wider conversation; more than words; seeing what they see; and potential barriers to making Digital Stories. Limitations: children were not able to make their own Digital Stories, which could have influenced their representation within the videos, transition meetings and assessments. However, children’s body worn camera footage was included, enabling a perspective on their interactions and preferences that was closer to the child’s worldview than other observational methods. Conclusions: Digital Stories have a variety of benefits to practice, including being useful to educational psychologists during assessments, and have the potential to facilitate successful transitions from nursery to primary school.<br/
... ACoRNS is a researchpractice partnership that co-constructs a locally meaningful evidence base with educational practitioners to make a difference to educational practice. ACoRNS includes specialist and mainstream schools, and spans early years through to Further and Higher Education (see Parsons & Kovshoff, 2019). Aviary Nursery is a fully inclusive day nursery which provides a child-led, play-focused context. ...
Article
The knowledge of children with special educational needs and disabilities, and their families, is essential for informing educational transition planning and decision-making. However, often their views are marginalised through formalised processes and assessments which underestimate children's capabilities and prioritise professional knowledge. We draw upon a project in an early years setting that involved 5 young autistic children, their families, and practitioners in the creation of Digital Stories as the children prepared for transition to school. Parents and practitioners contributed exemplary (practical) knowledge and children contributed embodied knowledge about the things that mattered to them. We analysed the Stories to find out what we learned about the children through taking these different perspectives. Children's embodied knowledge revealed their voices, interests and capabilities, with a focus on the spaces where they liked to be and who they chose to spend time with (including themselves). Parents and practitioners shared knowledge about the objects and interests of the child, the choices they make, and where support is needed. Taken together, the Stories provide an holistic view of the child that moves beyond difficulties and challenges. The Stories could be an important tool for professionals and families for supporting children's transitions.
... Thus, we focused on one resourced provision in a mainstream school in the South of England. The research was part of the Autism Community Research Network@Southampton [ACoRNS] initiative which aims to reduce the gap between education research and practice through co-creating research with school practitioners (Parsons and Kovshoff 2019). Teaching staff were closely involved in specifying the research questions, co-designing the storyboard methodology, and in co-authoring this paper. ...
Article
Full-text available
Resourced provision is an important model for inclusive education, possibly providing the 'best of both worlds' for pupils with Special Educational Needs (Flewitt & Nind, 2007). Typically, pupils split their time between specialist and mainstream classes, offering balanced support that is highly valued by parents. However, there is little research about resourced provision from the perspectives of the pupils. This small-scale study explored how children and teachers experience resourced provision and manage the daily transitions between activities and classes. A qualitative visual storyboard methodology was co-created between the researchers and school staff and used to access the views of five pupils on the autism spectrum aged 9-11 years about their everyday experiences, including transitions between special and mainstream classes; six staff members from the resource base were also interviewed. Findings highlighted the importance of friendship and peers; where and how support was provided; tensions between structured and unstructured periods; and student / school identity. The school has implemented changes to how daily transitions are supported in response to pupils' views, with positive impacts on practice. The storyboard method is a simple and adaptable approach that can enable children to share their views in research and practice.
Article
Lay abstract: In this study, we explored whether pictorial narration could offer a solution to teacher training on effective inclusion of students with autism spectrum disorder in the Lao People's Democratic Republic. For this purpose, pre- and post-training knowledge data were collected from 87 Laotian teachers who participated in teacher training using a pictorial narrative e-module called The Story of KhamdyTM. The teachers' knowledge test results and feedback were analyzed. The findings indicated that teachers' acceptance toward the training method had positive effects on their knowledge changes and supported the use of a pictorial narration approach in imparting knowledge about inclusive education and autism spectrum disorder to teachers in a least developed country.
Article
Full-text available
Educational outcomes for Looked-After children on the autism spectrum are significantly poorer than for autistic children not being Looked-After by their local authority (those 'in care'), and poorer than for most other groups of children with Special Educational Needs who are Looked-After in England. Such poor outcomes have led to calls for specific attention to be paid to the needs of autistic Looked-After children within the care of local authorities. There is also evidence that the numbers of autistic children being Looked-After by local authorities could be underrepresented in official figures. This study sought to find out the current numbers of autistic Looked-After children formally recorded across local authorities in England, and whether their needs are given special attention via strategic planning and oversight, using Freedom of Information (FoI) requests sent to all local authorities in England. From the 147 (97%) local authorities who responded, approximately 3% of Looked-After children in England are recorded as having an autism spectrum diagnosis although this is still very likely to be an underestimation. The majority of local authorities do not routinely monitor or report on the diagnostic status of autistic Looked-After children at a strategic level. Implications for research and practice are discussed.
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Purpose: The primary to secondary school transition can have a significant and long-lasting impact on young people. Autistic children are particularly vulnerable to negative transition experiences, however, there is a lack of research examining effective practices and provision for these pupils. This case study involves a mainstream secondary school in the South of England, which has a dedicated Learning Support base. The aim was to collect qualitative data on experiences of the primary to secondary school transition from multiple stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach: A photovoice activity followed by a semi-structured interview was conducted with five autistic pupils aged 12-16 years; semi-structured interviews were also carried out with six parents, and four teachers. Findings: Five key themes emerged from the data in relation to effective practices: Inclusion, Child-centred approach, Familiarisation, Visual Supports, and Communication and Consistency. Research limitations/implications: As a small-scale case study there are limitations regarding generalisation. However, this research illuminates transition practices that are experienced as effective by autistic children, their families and teachers. Practical implications: Practical implications related to each of these themes are highlighted. These implications are important in the context of the mandatory responsibilities of schools in England to include the voices of children and young people with special educational needs in decisions about their education. Originality/value: The findings challenge a rights-based approach to inclusion and illustrate the importance of a needs-based approach which appropriately recognises and understands what autism means for children, their families, and the teachers who support them. <br/
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Autism spectrum disorder is associated with co-existing conditions that may adversely affect an individual’s quality of life. No systematic review of quality of life of adults on the autism spectrum has been conducted. Our objectives were as follows: (1) review the evidence about quality of life for adults on the autism spectrum; (2) critically appraise current practice in assessing quality of life of adults on the autism spectrum. We searched bibliographic databases and other literature to identify studies using a direct measure of quality of life of adults on the autism spectrum. Hand searching of reference lists, citation searching and personal communication with field experts were also undertaken. In total, 827 studies were identified; 14 were included. Only one quality of life measure designed for use with the general autism spectrum population was identified. Quality of life of adults on the autism spectrum is lower than that of typically developing adults, when measured with tools designed for the general population. There are no comprehensive autism spectrum disorder–specific quality of life measurement tools validated for use with representative samples of adults on the autism spectrum. There is a pressing need to develop robust measures of quality of life of autistic adults.
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Experimental intervention studies constitute the current dominant research designs in the autism education field. Such designs are based on a ‘knowledge transfer’ model of evidence-based practice in which research is conducted by researchers, and is then ‘transferred’ to practitioners to enable them to implement evidence-based interventions. While these research designs contribute important knowledge, they lead to a gap between what the research evidence may prescribe and what happens in practice, with a concomitant disparity between the priorities of researchers and practitioners. This paper discusses findings from the ESRC funded ‘SHAPE’ project, which adopted a different model of evidence-based practice, focusing on knowledge co-construction. Pupils (N=8), teachers (N=10), a Speech and Language Therapist and a parent in three different school communities investigated creative ways in which children’s social communication skills could be enhanced through technology use. Through a participatory methodology, digital stories were used as a method to enable engagement with the practical realities of the classroom and empower practitioners to construct and share their own authentic narratives. Participants articulated precise knowledge about the learning opportunities afforded to them and their pupils through quality interactions that were mediated by the technologies, as evidenced through digital stories. The Shape project shows that it is feasible to develop methodologies that enable genuine knowledge co-construction with school practitioners, parents and pupils. Such co-construction could offer realistic opportunities for pedagogical emancipation and innovation in evidence-based practice as an alternative to the currently dominant and narrow model of knowledge transfer.
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This paper summarises the implications for practice arising from the ‘International review of the evidence on best practice in educational provision for children on the autism spectrum’ and it focuses on key priorities for policy makers, families, practitioners and researchers. Findings highlight that there is little evidence to indicate how different types of provision deliver education or to identify how they impact on outcomes for individual children. Furthermore, the process of deciding on an educational intervention is clearly more complex than the results of individual research papers can tell us. Choice of intervention needs to take account of what is best suited to the child and adults concerned, including the child's characteristics, parental preference, staff expertise and the goals selected. There is a need to focus on the developmental areas of functional spontaneous communication and language, social understanding and joint attention, peer interaction and appropriate toy play. Ongoing parent and teacher collaboration is essential as is a need to develop good collaboration between different professionals, both within and outside settings. Wider inclusion of the perspectives of individuals on the autism spectrum would be welcomed. Training is an important priority as practitioners and parents need specialist knowledge and understanding of the specific needs of children and young people on the autism spectrum. Finally, there is a need for researchers, practitioners, parents and individuals on the autism spectrum to work together much more closely than they do currently in order to determine jointly research agendas and methodologies and to discuss the implications of research findings.
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Whilst the last ten years have seen a significant increase in research published on early intervention and autism, there is a persistent disconnect between educational research and practice. Governments have invested significant funds in autism education and a range of approaches have been implemented in schools, but there is limited research exploring whether these educational strategies are effective and a lack of involvement of teaching professionals in the research. Given that the majority of children and young people with autism spend most of their time in school and not in early or specialised intervention programmes, there is a compelling need to conduct better educational research and implement educational interventions in schools. We argue that building collaborative partnerships between researchers and school practitioners is central to achieving improved understanding of, and outcomes for, pupils on the autism spectrum. This commentary offers perspectives from teachers about their experiences of, and priorities for, research, and also presents a model of collaboration between autism school practitioners and researchers which could support a more integrated approach to research. We reflect on the strengths and challenges of this as well as outcomes achieved so far.
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In order to develop deeper and better understandings of what constitutes effective educational practices, and to bridge the gap between research and practice, there is a need for a paradigm shift in autism educational research. The contribution of this paper is to examine the key methodological challenges that stand in the way of autism educational research impacting on practice. This research field is dominated by experimental research designs that evaluate the impact of ‘interventions’ that focus on developing the skills, knowledge, and understanding of pupils with autism. For educational research to have an impact on the lives of individuals with autism, their families, and the practitioners who work with them, movement towards a more balanced range of methodologies is needed. This needs to include methodologies that situate the knowledge base of practitioners on a par with the knowledge base of researchers, drawing on the evidence base from the classroom itself, and bringing in the perspectives and views of individuals with autism, their families, and the practitioners who work with them.
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The purpose of this study was to examine teacher perspectives about evidence-based practices (EPP) and decision-making for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Given the current EBP movement, our study sought to understand practitioner definitions and perspectives on EBP and decision-making. Interview data from nine special education teachers who work with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities were conducted, and then transcribed and coded in order to examine their perspectives and beliefs about how organizations, people and tools influence their understandings of EBP. Findings demonstrated that how teachers conceptualized EBPs and described their decision making about instruction was complex and painted a multi-faceted image of how they conceptualized organizational constraints, considered the value of research, and what tools were available to them.
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A challenge for current intervention developers is the transfer of positive interventions into everyday school settings. Most efficacy studies continue to be tested in controlled laboratory or clinical settings and very rarely in schools where children spend most of their time. We have limited knowledge of how laboratory-based studies would fare in a school setting, or whether studies that are tested first in schools can be sustained in these settings. The goal of increasing school-based intervention studies for children with an autism spectrum disorder was the primary aim of a special session at the 2011 International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) conference,1 a meeting that led directly to this special issue. The meeting reflected a growing awareness in the autism field that there remains a substantial gap between research and practice in real-world classrooms (Reichow et al., 2008) and a considerable lack of involvement from teachers and practitioners in intervention research generally (Parsons et al., 2011). Beyond the obvious advantages of implementing effective interventions into the school settings where children spend their time, thus increasing the likely exposure to any given intervention, schools also offer great diversity. Schools may be the perfect laboratory as nearly all children go to school; therefore, conducting research in school settings can increase research samples …
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Work in the area of research utilization has emphasized the importance of contacts between researchers and practitioners not only at the close of a study, but also before and, above all, during its conduct. These contacts have a strong influence on the impact of apiece of research on practitioners. More important, however, is the finding that, in settings in which educational researchers and practitioners have had few previous interactions, intensified contacts in the life of a research project can result not only in applications of the main findings, but also in the establishment of multiple areas of collaboration between the two parties that transcend the impact of a single study.