This is Sandra's doctoral thesis.
A full copy can be found at http://shura.shu.ac.uk/8317/
Using a qualitative theoretical stance of interpretivism, this study offers an opportunity for young autistic individuals to have a 'voice' and participate in a wholly reflective discussion about their informal education learning experiences. The study uses a constructivist framework to discuss various concepts including autism as a disability, the importance of recognising the heterogeneity of the autistic population, and the significance of informal education and physical activities to the lives of the participants; the aim being to create a positive learning experience where the diversity of learners is valued and recognised as well as informing professional teacher development.
An extensive examination of the literature reveals a myriad of rich intertwining perceptions that are pertinent considerations based on concerns at the root of this research: issues around the autistic mind, pedagogy and socio-cultural learning.
A pluralist methodology is used throughout to reflect the diverse autistic community, with a strong influence underlying each phase of autoethnography and self-reflection. This is crucial to the study to utilise each autistic 'voice' including that of the researcher who is an autistic adult as well as a professional within the context of the study. In addition, teachers within the field have been given an opportunity to have a 'voice' to complement and support the data.
The data has revealed a whole range of emergent themes, which can be further explored, developed and utilised outside of the this study to produce guidelines to inform a national autism specific teacher training programme for informal educators. The study has highlighted the need for flexible pedagogy, and for teachers to be conscious of the heterogeneity of their autistic students, as well as highlighting the importance of the student/teacher relationship within informal education.