Autism in the classroom: a conversation-analytic study of lesson beginnings in special education
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:05 by Siang Lee Yeo
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a large number of children. It is characterised by deficits in social communication, and fixated interests and repetitive behaviours. In recent years, an increasing number of studies have empirically explored how the deficits associated with ASD affect everyday communication, and participation in life activities. This study continues in this tradition, and explores how a group of children with ASD engage in classroom interactions. The primary data set of this study is audio and video recordings of classroom interactions involving three Year 5/6 students aged 11-12 years, and two of their teachers in a special education centre. Conversation analysis (CA) is employed to describe the organisation of lesson beginnings in these interactions. The analyses describe how children and teachers collaborate in this activity, and document a number of recurrent courses of action, including greetings, topic talk, and occasioning of task incipiency. This study demonstrates that greetings in lesson beginnings formalise orientation between the teachers and students. Topic talk in lesson beginnings provides an opportunity to undertake talk unrelated to the lesson, and is a significant aspect of student participation. Finally, when teachers occasion task incipiency, they move the lesson beginnings towards lesson tasks, and exert their deontic authority. These findings reveal how lesson beginnings are systematically constructed through specific social actions, and are oriented to by the participants. Such insights could be used to structure teacher reflection and examine their interactional implications, vis-à-vis the students’ idiosyncratic interactional competencies. This study also highlights the communicative opportunities provided for in lesson beginnings, particularly spates of topic talk, during which the students undertake various complex actions in order to achieve their interactional agenda. Lastly, this study contributes to conversation-analytic research by describing how children with ASD interact in class, and more specifically emphasising their communication strengths as well as abilities.