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Narratives from the autistic spectrum : what does it mean for a young person to be the bearer of an autistic spectrum diagnosis at secondary school?

Whiting, Claire-Marie (2010) Narratives from the autistic spectrum : what does it mean for a young person to be the bearer of an autistic spectrum diagnosis at secondary school? DEdCPsy thesis, University of Sheffield.

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The aim of this research was to facilitate the voices being heard of two young people at secondary school bearing an autistic spectrum diagnosis using a narrative approach. By definition this diagnosis suggested impaired communication and social interaction skills that should have made the open questioning style recommended for narrative interviewing difficult to access. However, insightful descriptions generated by autistic 'insiders', my own professional encounters and my experience as a mother of a child with a diagnosis inclined me towards more optimistic constructions of the autistic spectrum. Adopting a psychosocial, constructionist approach, I hoped to use narratives to illustrate the complexity of social constructs like the autistic spectrum and to facilitate the potential for agency: emancipation from thin, 'problem saturated' discourses. I was keen to coconstruct thicker narratives as a form of action research that might generate 'unique outcomes' for my subjects as co-researchers. I used free-association narrative interviewing to facilitate the coconstruction of narratives with the two young people. I hoped to explore meanings the experience of their diagnosis might generate for these young people against the context of a range of other narratives being told around them. I reflected upon and analysed each narrative to identify wider discourses, interpretative repertoires and identity scripts that might be interacting with the voices of the two young people. I realised that my own powerful voice as adult co-researcher also required interrogation. The 'storying' of their experiences suggested to me there was potential for agency for these young people. Externalising autism as a functional repertoire could position it as a strength within their experience. However, I sensed competition between complex, powerful and inter-woven narratives. Some, like the discourse of normalcy, introduced ambiguous meanings. I concluded that meaning-making through language was interactive and inevitably subjective, but could also be unique, generative and optimistic.

Item Type: Thesis (DEdCPsy)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.511870
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2016 15:06
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 15:06
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/15169

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