Multiple perspectives on what works in ASD intervention research: collaboration, video-based learning and self-determination in high school students

2017-02-22T02:36:39Z (GMT) by de Bruin, Catriona Louise
Adolescents diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are an under-researched yet growing population. The numbers of these students enrolling in inclusive high schools are increasing rapidly, although concerns exist about the effectiveness of strategies used to support their learning. Several limitations exist in the literature evaluating appropriate strategies in inclusive high schools. One set of limitations relates to the settings and participants, with the majority of researchers tending to investigate clinician-run interventions in therapeutic settings for younger students to learn skills critical to early development. The relevance of such research to support the idiosyncratic needs of older students in inclusive educational environments remains unknown, as does the power of these strategies to teach more complex and age-appropriate skills to these students. Another set of limitations relates to the ways in which interventions are evaluated, with the existing literature tending to evaluate intervention strategies solely through experimentally-defined behavioural change. The broader impact of support strategies on student learning or personal development remains unclear. The increasing numbers of students diagnosed with an ASD enrolled in regular high schools presents a compelling reason to identify strategies for supporting their education and adult life in ways that are valuable and appropriate. This thesis investigates the potential of mobile technology for supporting the learning of high-school students who are diagnosed with an ASD and who attend public high schools. The study actively engages students, teachers and families in collaboratively-devised, video-based learning programmes that aim to build self-determination in students. The impact of this programme is evaluated in terms of its impact on students’ ability to learn and self-manage skills and behaviours that they have selected as priorities for achieving their goals in conjunction with their parents and teachers. The study both incorporates and also transcends the “what works” experimental model of educational research by incorporating multiple observations and perceptions of the impact, feasibility and value of this technology to teach skills or behaviours students, teachers and parents have deemed important and which enhance students’ self-determination and progress toward their personal and academic goals. The study combines a single case research methodology with an inclusive research approach to work alongside students, their teachers and their parents in developing, implementing and evaluating the interventions using diverse methods and data sources. In doing so, I acknowledge both the value and the limitations of a variety of research methods and approaches for understanding the effectiveness of student learning In conducting this study I have grappled with the politics and ethics of researching inclusively on/for/with young people who are diagnosed with an ASD, as well as the complexities of working with divergent models of researching effectiveness. These approaches to producing knowledge are woven together using Deleuzian thinking as a framework for negotiating what were, at times, very different truth claims for the legitimacy and validity knowledge produced through experimental and inclusive research approaches. 

Awards: Winner of the Mollie Holman Doctoral Medal for Excellence, Faculty of Education, 2015.