We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to browse this repository, you give consent for essential cookies to be used. You can read more about our Privacy and Cookie Policy.

Durham e-Theses
You are in:

Distraction, Distress and Diversity: The impact of sensory processing differences on learning and school life for autistic pupils

JONES, ELIZABETH,KATE (2021) Distraction, Distress and Diversity: The impact of sensory processing differences on learning and school life for autistic pupils. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

PDF - Accepted Version


The current thesis adopted a mixed-method multi-informant approach to investigate the impact of sensory differences on academic achievement and classroom behaviour for autistic pupils. Study 1 focused on the role of IQ in predicting autistic and neurotypical pupil’s academic achievement. Although IQ predicted achievement in both groups, significant IQ-achievement discrepancies were identified, suggesting that factors beyond IQ, might be influencing the achievement of autistic pupils. To explore this possibility, Study 2 asked parents and teachers, if, and how, sensory differences impacted learning and school life for autistic pupils. Sensory differences were perceived to impact learning by causing distraction, distress, anxiety, and limited participation. Factors including predictability, school resources, and staff knowledge minimized sensory disruption. Building on these insights, in Study 3 late-diagnosed autistic females were asked to reflect upon the impact of sensory differences at school. These insights highlighted how sensory differences could exacerbate an already difficult social world. Study 4 used standardized assessment to examine the relationship between sensory processing differences, academic achievement, and classroom behaviour. Although greater sensory differences were associated with greater levels of hyperactivity and poorer peer-relations, unexpectedly Sensitivity was positively related to Reading achievement and accounted for a small but significant amount of variance in scores. Adopting an experimental paradigm, Study 5 examined how the sensory environment impacted the ability of autistic and neurotypical pupils to stay on-task. Children were asked to complete a reading task in a pop-up classroom in four different environmental conditions; Neutral, Audio, Visual, and Audio-visual. Compared to neurotypical pupils, autistic pupils displayed greater levels of off-task behaviour across all conditions. However, both groups showed greatest levels of off-task behaviour in the Visual and Audio-Visual condition, showing how certain types of sensory inputs have greater or lesser impact on children’s ability to focus in a classroom type scenario (irrespective of diagnosis). Framed within a Nordic Model of Disability, these insights have been drawn together to develop a framework for understanding how, and under which circumstances, sensory differences impact the educational outcomes of autistic pupils.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Autism, Education, Sensory
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Science > Psychology, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Nov 2021 11:57

Social bookmarking: del.icio.usConnoteaBibSonomyCiteULikeFacebookTwitter