Encouraging home conversations about the school day
'How was your day?'
Previous work on narrative, particularly autobiographical narrative, suggests that autistic children are less equipped to engage in conversations about their day than their non-autistic peers. Significant associations have been found between parental engagement and reduced bullying among autistic students, which suggests that parents who are engaged with, and aware of, their children’s school experiences may play a protective role by reporting incidents of bullying relayed by their children.
The objectives of this project were to:
(a) collect and analyse a corpus of conversational data between autistic school-aged children and their parents or carers, and a parallel corpus from non-autistic children, and survey questionnaires completed by parents, in order to:
(i) establish whether parents perceive there to be difficulties in communicating about the school day with their autistic child
(ii) determine what type of personal autobiographical stories children tell about their day after school
(iii) determine whether parents and children engage in discussion of possible alternative scenarios in talking about school experiences
(iv) identify where communication breakdowns occur in conversations between autistic children and their families about the school day, and
(b) develop an outline of a trial intervention targeting conversational interaction between parents and children after school based on the answers to these questions.
Overall, the project revealed clear differences in the lived experience of the two groups of parents and of their children both in their experience of schooling and in their experience of communicating about it. The results from this project could inform the development of approaches to facilitate conversations about school between children on the spectrum and their parents as a preventative measure to minimize the impact of negative events at school.
- Lesley Stirling, University of Melbourne