Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Elizabeth Kaczmarek

Abstract

Despite the increasing number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) attending mainstream school, the process of facilitating their learning and participation remains a complex and poorly understood area of education (Simpson, de Boer, & Smith-Myles, 2003). Three key cognitive theories (theory of mind, theory of weak central coherence and theory of executive function) have been posited to provide the most complete understanding of the disorder (Baron-Cohen, 1989). Presently however, the developmental effects of these cognitive theories have been largely overlooked (Happe, 1994). Through examining how these models may affect cognitive processing in children with ASD, the learning and educational needs of these children may be better understood. Meanwhile, an increasing number of parents are addressing their children's unique learning challenges through home education. This individualised educative approach may possibly provide a paramount educational alternative to traditional schooling. The number of families deciding to home educate their children with disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), has escalated in Australia in recent years (Reilly, Chapman, & O'Donoghue, 2002). Due to limited research on this educative approach, the purpose of this qualitative study is to examine mothers' perspectives of home educating a child with ASD. Ten mothers were interviewed using a qualitative research design within an idiographic framework. A thematic content analysis identified three main themes; 'school experience', 'coming home' and 'mother's experience as educator'. Findings were dominated by mothers reporting an ability to provide an individualised education to their child, as well as observing an increase in their child's well-being. The attitudes, experiences and level of support required of mothers were found to directly relate to their perceived choice in home educating their child. This study has implications for parents, educators and health care professionals regarding the psychological and educational needs of children with ASD.

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