Introduction: Autism is a spectrum condition with symptom presentation varying widely. Teachers and parents face challenges in supporting autistic children. There are similarities in how teachers and parents make sense of autism, but there may be differences in priorities and approach potentially leading to misunderstandings. Where parents are actively engaged in their child’s school life the impact on outcomes is positive. SAFE with Schools is a new intervention in development designed to support parents and teachers of autistic children to build collaborative relationships. The study aims to explore understandings among parents and teachers, areas of difference and agreement and perceptions of communication between the two contexts. Methods: Teacher–parent units (N=32) for 13 autistic children, were recruited. The parents and teachers completed reflective journals and carried out semi-structured interviews focusing on the aims of the study. A blended thematic interpretive approach drawing from IPA and Thematic Analysis methodological approaches was used to analyse the resulting data. The analysis proceeded by extracting themes for the parents and the teachers separately. Subsequently these were compared, to identify which themes appeared for both and how they were employed in similar or divergent ways. Findings: The following 6 themes emerged from the data: Each Child is Unique, Behavioral Differences between Home and School, Building Positive Relationships as Essential to Child’s Wellbeing, Emotional Impacts of the Autism, Bureaucracy as a Barrier and Feelings of Control. Although these themes were shared by teachers and parents there were differences in emphasis and expression in practice between the two contexts. Discussion: The findings related to various bodies of both clinical and educational literature which highlight the need for interventions such as SAFE with Schools that take a systemic, attachment-based approach to facilitating strong relationships with and around the autistic child.



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Autism-Open Access





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Institute of Education