Children with ASD Transitioning into Primary School: Parents and Teachers' Activities and Perceptions
Objectives: Regarding the transition process of children with ASD from kindergarten to first grade, the objective is to present in depth the mutual experience:
- of parents related to their perceptions of support from formal services, partnership with teachers, empowerment process and family quality of life.
- of teachers related to their sense of self-efficacy and efforts to support children and families.
Methods: From March 2016 to May 2017, a multi-perspective case study approach was used to explore the transition of eight students with ASD from Kindergarten (K) to grade 1 in the Montreal area. Participants were identified through purposive sampling to ensure diversity of school placements: 4 were in a special class and 4 in a mainstream class setting. Using a photovoice approach, 50 interviews were conducted with 8 parents and 16 teachers (maternal and first grade) to describe the change over time. Participants recorded, with the use of an iPod, activities carried out to support children’s education during the transition. These activities were then discussed in keeping with Clot’s (2015) definition of activity through his ergonomic model of work, to obtain information regarding what participants do to support the child but also what they do not, what they cannot, what they should, will, won’t, have left to do. Data was analyzed using a thematic and emergent coding approach (Patton, 2002).
Results: Results illustrate similarities across cases. Parents all demonstrated a very high level of involvement in their child’s education through a large continuum of activities: stimulation at home to facilitate learning, reading and writing, routines and daily schedules to avoid problem behaviors, seeking information from school as well as formal and informal support, etc. Teachers all showed a willingness to support the child and his family. K teachers played a crucial role to meet the child’s educational needs but also the families’ ones, as for some of the latter school represents their first contact with formal support. Core differences were found when comparing across contexts: some parents of children attending a mainstream setting were advocating more than the others for their child’s educational needs or placement. Special education teachers were more largely using behavioral approaches and struggling with academic learning whereas those in ordinary contexts were more bothered by the students’ lack of social skills.
Conclusions: Benefits of pairing parents with teachers in research will be discussed as well as results that can be studied more in depth or in a larger sample in future research. Implications for practice will also be discussed, including challenges and facilitators for children with ASD transitioning from K to primary school.