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Durham University



Publication details for Professor Deborah Riby

McDougal, E., Riby, D. M. & Hanley, E. (2020). Teacher insights into the barriers and facilitators of learning in autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders 79: 101674.

Author(s) from Durham


Little is known about the factors impacting on learning for autistic pupils, even though academic outcomes are highly heterogeneous. The aim of the current study was to qualitatively explore factors that are perceived to impact positively (i.e. facilitators) and negatively (i.e. barriers) upon learning for primary school pupils with an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten teachers currently engaged in teaching autistic pupils, which were analysed using thematic analysis.

Three key themes were identified: pupil’s behaviours and abilities (factors related to the child’s behaviour, cognition or personality), academic environment (physical and contextual), and teacher skills and qualities (e.g. training, trust and relationships).

A range of factors were therefore identified by teachers, some of which corroborate with existing research, while other findings provide novel insights. Priorities for facilitating learning are discussed, as well as key areas for future investigation and potential intervention.

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