Learning from autistic teachers: lessons about change in an era of COVID-19

Rebecca Wood*, Laura Crane, Francesca Happé, Ruth Moyse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in major upheavals in the school education sector, particularly during periods of “lockdown” and remote working. While the impact of these changes on pupils, parents and school staff, both nationally and internationally, has been well-documented, there has been scant consideration of the effects on disabled educators. In addition, the mixed nature of the existing research findings in the special education context–revealing positives, as well as negatives from Covid-related adjustments–suggests the need to learn broader lessons from the impact of these measures. In this article, we report on findings from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 21 autistic school staff working in a range of roles in schools in the UK. Using thematic analysis, participants’ experiences of lockdown were analysed. Importantly, these were also compared with participants’ experiences outside of the pandemic. The resulting five themes–sensory issues and the working environment; communication and social barriers and freedoms; stresses and strengths associated with technology; navigating home/school boundaries; and modalities of change–revealed some of the significant difficulties autistic school staff typically experience in their work, as well as the factors that intersect with these. Although periods of Covid-related measures created additional stresses for participants, they also provided a respite from the usual pressures, and indeed enabled their strengths–including an ability to manage change–to be more manifest. Valuable insights, which could benefit autistic school staff, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, and the whole school community in the UK and beyond, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEDUCATIONAL REVIEW
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • agency
  • Autism
  • autistic teachers
  • COVID-19
  • inclusive education
  • remote working

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