Created on: 13 Jan 2022 | Last modified: 16 Feb 2023
“It doesn’t beat the real thing”: Educational experiences of students with ASD during COVID 19
This qualitative study examines what students with an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) on Transitions, a specialist Further Education course in Scotland feel about their course. It further considers how they have coped with the educational constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research was conducted using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews over the course of one academic term. Asperger syndrome, an ASD, is briefly explained along with the challenges and opportunities of this social difference for students and teachers. The structure of the Transitions course is outlined.
Four themes emerged from the research. Firstly, the students experienced difficulty with their education prior to coming on the Transitions course, often due to the nature of their ASD, often experiencing bullying, struggling to fit in and be like the majority of students. Secondly, the students were self aware and viewed themselves as different which caused feelings of anxiety and a lack of confidence. Thirdly, the students aspired to achieving and moving on to other college courses, but often lacked direction as to what they would study. And finally, online learning had an impact as they struggled with new technology, working from home and problems with motivation, although some students appreciated being able to be in their own space and learning new technology. The research found that the students preferred face to face teaching. Students struggled to complete work and stay on task and lecturers were not able to build up the relationships of trust that are necessary in order to provide suitable guidance.
This research provides important points for teachers to consider when working with ASD students, particularly as distance learning may become the “new normal” in the short term. An actually inclusive educational system will need to grapple with the realities that ASD students, their teachers and families face regarding distance learning. It is recommended that educational institutions provide sufficient ASD specific training, user friendly technical support and tailored individual online learning. The researchers recommend further study into online learning and ASD.
This report offers insight into the implementation of various interventions for supporting learners with ASD in a further education setting. Practitioners will find the methods and research strategy effective for shaping their own investigations into this topic, and draw on the author’s initial conclusions to develop their own interventions.