A Case Study Investigation into the Sensory Needs of Children and Young People with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) within an Educational Context.

  • Alison Gurney

Student thesis: Doctor of Educational and Child Psychology


A number of studies have reported that many children with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) experience unusual responses to sensory stimuli, however it is argued that there is a lack of conceptual understanding regarding this phenomenon and an underdeveloped evidence base regarding appropriate support for these responses within an educational context. Despite this, practitioners from a range of professions are called upon to offer consultation, advice and intervention. Therefore, the present study sought to qualitatively explore the experiences of these professionals with regards to the sensory needs of children with ASC within an educational setting.An exploratory single-embedded case study design was adopted. Two Specialist Teachers, two Educational Psychologists (specialists in ASC) and two Occupational Therapists were recruited opportunistically and individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant, resulting in six interviews. Each interview was audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Interview data were analysed using thematic analysis and the findings presented as three thematic maps according to research question.Six organising themes were identified for Research Question 1: conceptualisations, assessment, defining unusual sensory responses, pragmatism, impact at school and professionals' roles. Three organising themes arose from the data for Research Question 2: interventions, differences between special and mainstream, and efficacy. The data from the interviews yielded two organising themes for Research Question 3: barriers and facilitators.The study extends conceptual understanding by presenting a proposed Interactive Factors Framework (IFF) for unusual sensory responses in children with ASC. A number of recommendations for supporting children with ASC and unusual sensory responses within educational settings are also proposed. Implications for professionals supporting the sensory needs of children with ASC are discussed with reference to the pragmatic issues involved in translating a developing evidence base into practice.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCatherine Kelly (Supervisor) & Kevin Woods (Supervisor)


  • Education
  • Intervention
  • Autism
  • Sensory

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