The Participation of Children with Autism in Decision-Making: A Case Study of One School (Student Project)

Chantelle Zilli.

Doctorate in Educational Psychology.

Research has highlighted the importance of increasing the participation of children with autism in decision-making about school experiences, however there is little research on the practices that might help school staff to do this. This is a timely and relevant gap to address because there is more emphasis in schools to involve pupils in decision-making due to national policy changes which prioritise the full participation of children and families in decisions that affect their lives.

The aim of this research is to do a case study of one school, in order to understand the practices that help pupils with autism to participate in decisions about their school experiences. The pupils at this particular school fit the purpose of the research because they are pupils who are most likely to be marginalized from decision-making processes according to the literature – pupils with autism and pupils who have had unsuccessful mainstream placements.

This project is supervised by Dr Hanna Kovshoff and Professor Sarah Parsons. We aim to collect multiple sources of evidence to provide a rich, detailed picture of how pupils with autism participate in decision-making at the case school. This will include the perspectives of a focal group of children with autism, their parents and teachers who work closely with them, to understand these pupils’ experiences of participation in decision-making. The pupils will also be observed in a range of decision-making contexts such as the classroom, school council meetings and pupil behaviour plan reviews.

The objective is to provide new knowledge about pupil participation that will promote greater understanding amongst education practitioners of the factors enabling pupils with autism to participate in decision-making as well as generate improvements to school practice. You can read in detail about the project’s findings here.