Mental health beyond the school gate: Young people’s perspectives of mental health support online, and in home, school and community contexts

Authors: Natalie Jago, Sarah Wright, Brettany K. Hartwell and Rachel Green
Published: 2020
Publication: Educational and Child Psychology

Aims: This study sought to develop a greater understanding of what young people identify as essential components of mental health support.
Rationale: Children and young people’s mental health has been identified as an area of concern and highlighted by the government as a priority area for improvement. In the United Kingdom (UK), increased importance has been placed on capturing their views. However, research suggests this group is not always asked for their views by decision-makers leading to a discrepancy between what is provided and what children and young people want from support. Incorporating the views and perspectives of children and young people in the design of appropriate support approaches is an important way to give them a voice in issues that affect them, as well as ensuring provision is suitable.
Method: A two-round Delphi method was used whereby a panel of young people aged 16-25 who had previously experienced a mental health difficulty rated a series of statements. A consensus level of 75% across the panel was set to include/exclude statements in a final framework of recommendations. To gain feedback on the feasibility and utility of the framework, interviews with adult stakeholders were carried out.
Findings: The competencies identified were used to form a framework of recommendations for practice. The importance of relationships, the need for trust and confidentiality, and the need for further mental health awareness and training were key themes identified.
Conclusions: This study provides a helpful insight into what young people value from mental health support. Implications of the research include a need for further awareness raising of children and young people’s views regarding mental health and larger scale participatory research to expand upon the findings of the current study.

Jago, N., Wright, S., Hartwell, B. K. & Green, R. (2020) Mental Health Beyond the School Gate: Young People’s Perspectives of Mental Health Support Online, and in Home, School and Community Contexts. Educational and Child Psychology, 37(3), 69-85.

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A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents

Authors: Henry Wood-Downie, Bonnie Wong, Hanna Kovshoff, Samuele Cortese and Julie Hadwin
Published: 2020
Publication: Child Psychology and Psychiatry

Background: Evidence increasingly suggests that ASD manifests differently in females than males. Previous reviews investigating sex/gender differences in social interaction and social communication have focused at the level of broad constructs (e.g. comparing algorithm scores from pre‐existing diagnostic instruments) and have typically reported no significant differences between males and females. However, a number of individual studies have found sex/gender differences in narrow construct domains.
Method: We conducted a systematic review and random effects model meta‐analyses (in January 2019 and updated January 2020) that investigated sex/gender differences in narrow construct measures of social communication and interaction in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents, and adults. Study quality was appraised using the Appraisal Tool for Cross‐Sectional Studies (AXIS, BMJ Open, 6, 2016, 1).
Results: Across 16 studies (including 2,730 participants), the analysis found that female (vs. male) individuals with ASD had significantly better social interaction and social communication skills (SMD = 0.39, p < .001), which was reflective of a similar sex/gender profile in nonautistic individuals (SMD = 0.35, p < .001). Nonautistic males had significantly better social interaction and communication than males with ASD (SMD = 0.77, p < .001). Nonautistic females also had significantly better social interaction and communication than females with ASD (SMD = 0.72, p <.001). Nonautistic males had better social interaction and communication than females with ASD, though this difference was not significant (SMD = 0.30, p = .07).
Conclusions: This systematic review and meta‐analysis highlighted important sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication for individuals with ASD, likely not captured by pre‐existing diagnostic instruments, which potentially contribute to the under recognition of autism in females, and may need to be reflected in the diagnostic process.

Wood-Downie, H., Wong, B., Kovshoff, H., Cortese, S. & Hadwin, J. A. (2020) Research Review: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of sex/gender differences in social interaction and communication in autistic and nonautistic children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1111/jcpp.13337

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The Children’s Exploratory Drawings

The Children’s Exploratory Drawings (CEDs) are a series of simple drawings of common school scenes that can be used during assessment to elicit a child or young person’s views about themselves and the world around them. They are available free for professionals to use flexibly, both in-person and virtually. As a visual resource we hope that they can be used with young people of a wide range of ages and communication abilities. We hope this resource may be added to the catalogue of existing Personal Construct resources that we have enjoyed using. 

The creation of the CEDs was driven by conversations, input, and guided practice with a number of inspiring individuals that we have met so far on the Educational Psychology Doctorate at Southampton. We are particularly thankful to Dr Tim Cooke and Sarah Wright for supervising the work and sharing their wisdom, to Dr Bee Hartwell for introducing us to Personal Construct Psychology and to Dr Ed Sayer, who challenged us to reflect on our assessment practice as we ventured forth into assessment work on our first placement.  

You can access the resource and our guidance document via this OneNote link. We hope that you enjoy using the Children’s Exploratory Drawings. We look forward to hearing your experiences of using the CEDs. If you use the resource, we ask that you leave some feedback for up via the survey link: CEDs Feedback (click here)

 Children’s Exploratory Drawings (Timney & Cohman, 2020)

The Children’s Exploratory Drawings, by Cleo Timney and Abigail Cohman, is a resource for free use, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) license.

An exploration of the support schools can provide to students with non-suicidal self-injury behaviour.

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Lloyd Chilcott
Submitted: March 2020

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a behaviour enacted by a significant proportion of children and young people in the UK. Many individuals turn to the behaviour as a coping mechanism and, unfortunately, many schools do not have the guidance or understanding to support these students. Furthermore, many support measures lack sufficient evidence with an NSSI population. In this essay, I will explore NSSI in relation to children and young people, how schools can provide support and the barriers to implementation, to contribute to the NSSI literature supporting education systems, and to demonstrate the need for further research. The first section explores the need to help those at risk of NSSI, the groups at the most significant risk and the aforementioned view of NSSI as a coping mechanism. There is then an examination of four prevention and intervention measures available to schools: adapting the school curriculum; developing school belonging; providing a school policy; and utilising school counsellors. Each is shown to be evidence-based and potentially simple to implement, however, each is insufficient in its evidence of application within an NSSI population. In the final section, there are considerations towards the potential barriers preventing the discussed measures at the individual, school and systemic levels. As a result of these explorations, it is argued that there is an urgent need for greater NSSI research to provide evidence-informed practice.

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An intervention to raise a sense of belonging and associated outcomes for secondary aged pupils with low socioeconomic status

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Joanne Lambeth
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

The first chapter of this document outlines a systematic literature review regarding the relationship between belonging and academic achievement, specifically in relation to adolescents. Three databases were systematically searched following a clear search strategy and inclusion criteria. Nineteen articles were identified and critically appraised in order to understand the current picture of the research. On balance, the review highlights that belonging is significantly related to academic achievement. This relationship was found across gender and different cultures. In addition, within the concept of belonging, some factors seem to influence achievement more than others, e.g., relatedness to teachers. However taken together, it indicates that relationships in general are important to support achievement. This review also highlights factors that contribute to differences in belonging and achievement such as gender (with girls achieving higher levels of both) and marginalisation by ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In addition, the articles indentified a range of variables that help to explain the relationship including academic emotions, engagement, behaviour conduct, educational efficacy and purpose. Despite the findings reported in the literature, there is a lack of experimental research regarding this relationship and the conclusion remains correlational. Following this review a gap in the literature appears regarding how to increase belonging and consequently achievement, using an experimental design. In addition, it highlights to educational professionals that relationships are important in supporting achievement and should be adequately supported in educational settings.

The second chapter of this document reports on experimental research conducted on the topic of belonging and associated outcomes for young adolescents. Previous research demonstrated that a brief psychological intervention increased belonging and attainment for a marginalised population (individuals from African American backgrounds) upon transition to a new environment (college) (Walton & Cohen, 2011). The current research adapted and used this intervention with a different population, i.e., young adolescents who may experience marginalisation due to low socioeconomic status (SES), upon transition to secondary school. The aim of the intervention is to target individuals who may worry about belonging and implicitly change their attributions about negative experiences, i.e., that perceptions of social adversity are common and time limited, not due to the individual themselves. Three schools based in low SES areas agreed to take part. Year 7 pupils (N = 62) were allocated to either an intervention group (n = 25) or active control group (n = 37). Measures of anxiety about belonging and SES were taken pre-intervention. Measures of belonging, attainment and attendance were taken across a period of six months. Correlational analysis found that SES was significantly related to anxiety about belonging, i.e., those with low SES had higher levels of anxiety. Multiple regression analysis also found that SES significantly predicted attainment. T-tests were used to analyse the difference between the intervention and control conditions in regards to belonging, attainment and attendance. However, no differences were found between the intervention and control groups. Future directions regarding the development of this intervention are discussed.

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Looking ahead rather than behind: exploring the future perspectives and resilience of adolescents who have experience of parental imprisonment

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Catherine Goodchild
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Adolescence is a period of development when young people begin to prepare for transition from childhood into adulthood creating an increased focus on future potential and aspirations. A systematic review of the international literature was conducted, exploring the relationship between adolescent outcomes and two key areas of future perception studies, future orientation and possible selves. 18 articles were identified and subsequently organised by grouping in relation to school, home and personal factors. Research was conducted cross-culturally and often focussed on at-risk populations related to ethnicity, however only two studies extended to the UK population. A number of quantitative studies suggest a relationship exists between adolescent future orientation and a variety of positive outcomes, as well as acting as a protective factor against negative outcomes, e.g. risk-taking behaviours. Participants’ perspectives were rarely explored through qualitative research, with only two papers included. Limitations include methodological design, leading to calls for more robust research in this area.

The empirical paper (Chapter 2) adopted a qualitative design and explored the future perceptions of children of imprisoned parents. This population have been referred to as ‘silent victims’ in the literature and are suggested to be at risk of multiple negative outcomes, including disruption to relationships, stigmatisation and increased risk of engaging in socially undesirable behaviours. The current study gathered the future perspectives of children of imprisoned parents, as well as their resilience factors including sources of strength and support from their past and present experiences. Five participants, aged 9-12 years were interviewed using semi-structured interviews and a ‘life path’ drawing activity. Deductive thematic analysis identified six overall themes: experience of having a parent in prison, social support, individual coping strategies, beliefs about the future, strategies to reach future goals and potential barriers to reaching future goals. Implications for practice were discussed in light of the heterogeneous nature of the findings and concluded that professionals should consider a bespoke approach to intervention, ensuring children are kept at the forefront of decision-making. Calls for future research included further qualitative studies to explore how children of imprisoned parents construct their own identities, which could be triangulated with data such as the voice of siblings and wider family members.

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Understanding the school outcomes for, and experiences of, siblings of children with autism

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Alexandra Gregory
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

A systematic literature review was conducted to explore the educational outcomes for, and experiences of, siblings of children on the autism spectrum (autism siblings). Whilst there is a growing body of research on the psychological outcomes for autism siblings, few studies have considered how this might influence the school context. Findings were linked to the Siblings Embedded Systems Framework; school factors, psychological internal challenges and resources, peers and other formal and informal social systems, and personal interpretation of events. Overall, school outcomes and experiences showed large variation, suggesting that some autism siblings are at increased risk of difficulties in the school context, but that autism siblings do not automatically experience challenges in school. Nevertheless, the review highlighted a number of methodological limitations of the evidence-base in this area, including the small body of literature, particularly in the UK, studies of low methodological rigour, such as those employing small sample sizes, and reliance on solely parent-reported outcomes. This limits the conclusions that can be drawn.

The empirical study extended the current literature to explore two school-related outcomes; sense of school belonging and academic self-concept. Using online questionnaires, autism siblings and siblings of typically developing children without autism (typical siblings) aged 11 to 16 years in secondary schools across the UK took part.

Data on sibling wellbeing were also triangulated via self-, parent/carer- and teacher reports. Relative to typical siblings, autism siblings self-reported significantly lower school belonging and academic self-concept, in addition to significantly lower self, parent- and teacher-reported wellbeing outcomes. Regression models established that sibling-reported internalising and externalising behaviours significantly predicted both school-related outcomes. Sibling group was also a significant predictor in all models, demonstrating that even once demographic variables and sibling wellbeing were controlled, robust sibling group differences were still present. Despite these findings, there was a greater variation in autism siblings’ school outcomes compared to typical siblings. Therefore, this study highlights the importance of taking an individualised and person-centred approach to understanding the varying needs of, and providing support to, siblings of children on the autism spectrum.

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The impact of small motor activity on attention and learning in children

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Helen Jones
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Research has suggested that small movements may Improve attention in children by increasing arousal. However, no systematic review has examined this literature. This review aimed to conduct a broad and thorough search, combining relevant evidence in a systematic and critical way In order to establish whether small motor activity improves attention and learning in children. Fifteen studies were reviewed, relating to fidgeting, doodling, chewing gum and alternative seating. The overall evidence was inconsistent with a weighting towards positive findings; however, the insufficient quantity and quality of studies precluded any firm conclusions. A need was identified for further studies using improved designs and including measures of arousal.

The empirical study aimed to investigate links between doodling, arousal and attention in children using a robust, repeated-measures experimental design, including a measure of arousal and exploring moderating effects of other related factors. Fifty-five children (aged 9 to 10 years) individually completed tests of sustained attention (SA) and working memory (WM) under two counterbalanced conditions (doodling/control). Heart rate (HR) was measured during each test. Self-reported state anxiety and fatigue were measured as potential confounders. Self-reported attentional control (AC), trait anxiety and sleepiness were considered as potential moderators. Data were analysed using linear mixed models. Results showed that SA declined while doodling. No main effect of condition on WM was found; however, a near-significant interaction effect indicated that children who reported low AC performed better while doodling, whereas children who reported high AC performed better under the non-doodling condition. HR Increased while doodling; however, changes In HR did not predict changes in SA or WM performance. This study concluded that doodling increases arousal but cannot be recommended to improve SA. Doodling may improve WM for children who struggle with AC. Interference effects may explain the detrimental effects of doodling.

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An investigation into the associations between maths anxiety in secondary school pupils and teachers’ and parents’ implicit theories of intelligence and failure

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Anna Doedens-Plant
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

This research examined the role that teachers’ mindsets, or implicit beliefs about intelligence and failure, play in the development of their pupils’ mindsets and subsequent maths anxiety. A systematic review of fourteen studies investigated the association between teachers’ implicit beliefs about intelligence and their pedagogical practices in the classroom. It showed that teachers tended to report having a growth mindset, but this was not necessarily evidenced by concordant classroom practice, such as the adoption of mastery goals. Fixed mindset beliefs, on the other hand, seemed to lead to more consistent practice, with potentially damaging effects.

The empirical study built on this review to explore mindset (i.e., implicit beliefs about intelligence and failure) in secondary school pupils in Years 7, 8 and 9 (0.859), their parents (N=84) and teachers (0=9). Pupils were also asked about their perceptions of their parents’ and teachers’ goals, as either oriented towards performance or learning. The results pointed to several factors associated with pupils’ maths anxiety (i.e. gender, maths set). Also, pupils’ implicit beliefs that failure is debilitating were associated with pupils’ maths anxiety. Teachers’ implicit failure beliefs were associated with pupils’ beliefs about failure and were indirectly linked via pupils’ perceptions of their teachers’ goals as fixed. Further analysis highlighted that pupils’ intelligence beliefs, their perception of their parents’ goals and their maths set also impacted on whether or not pupils’ viewed failure as debilitating or beneficial for learning. These results suggest that teachers can make a useful contribution to reducing pupils’ maths anxiety, by reflecting on how to translate helpful beliefs into visible practice, to help pupils experience failure as an opportunity for learning.

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Twins: Exploring implications for their interactions with parents and classroom placement at school

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Kate Brant
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

The present thesis considers possible influences on the development of twins in both the home and school environment. The first chapter critically assesses the available evidence on whether parenting twins is associated with differences in parent-child relationship and in associated behavioural and emotional outcomes for twins. The second chapter presents the experiences of parents and school staff of the decision-making process about classroom placements of twins for reception-class entry.

A systematic review was conducted to assess whether there are differences between twin and singleton groups in early infancy. The review focused specifically on assessing differences in parental affect, parent-child interactions and how this could affect the quality of parent child relationship and children’s emotional and behavioural outcomes. The results from this review highlight that parents of twins experience greater and a more prolonged period of stress when their children are in early infancy as well as greater mental health difficulties and reduced feelings of parental efficacy. The review also reports inconsistencies in the identified literature regarding differences in parent-child interactions between twin and singleton groups. However, there are consistent findings within the identified literature which reported that twin and singleton infants’ relationship quality with their parents and emotional and behavioural outcomes do not differ. The results from the systematic search are discussed in relation to emotional sensitive responsiveness and the potential protective factor of the twin relationship.

A qualitative study which involved 12 interviews conducted with parents (i.e. with 11 mothers and one parent-pair) and 15 with school managers. Thematic analysis following Brown and Clark’s (2006) six steps identified a number of important shared and distinct themes. The importance of twins’ individuality was emphasised by both parents and school managers. When deciding on placement, parents and school managers considered a balance between the twins’ needs for support and independence. Parents’ experiences of their interactions with the school relating to their twins’ school placement were often linked to their perceptions of their relationship with the school, especially as parents felt it was an important decision. Thus, the perceived negative experiences of interactions with schools during the decision making process were reflected in more negative perceptions of the school and the home-school relationship during that time. However, these views could change over time. In addition, practicalities of classroom placements were reported by parents; school managers also reported school factors which could influence the decision.School managers used their experiences to inform their views. Their perception of who should make the decision (e.g. school, parents, or collaboratively) influenced their communication with parents, their perception of twin sets as different, and how they balanced children’s support and independence at transition to school. Extracted themes are discussed in relation to the development of identity and autonomy, attachment theory and parent trust in schools. Effective home-school collaboration during the decision-making process is recommended for good practice.

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Dyslexia or literacy difficulties: what difference does a label make? Exploring the perceptions and experiences of young people

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Rosa Gibby-Leversuch
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

This systematic review investigates the links between literacy difficulties, dyslexia and the self-perceptions of children and young people (CYP). It aims to further understanding by building on Burden’s (2008) review and explores how the additional factors of attributional style and the dyslexia label may contribute to the self-perceptions of children and young people. 19 papers are included and quality assessed. Quantitative papers measured the self reported self-perceptions of CYP with literacy difficulties and/or dyslexia (LitD/D) and compared these with the CYP without LitD/D. Qualitative papers explored the lived experiences of CYP with LitD/D, including their self-views and how these were affected by receiving a dyslexia diagnosis. Results suggest that CYP with LitD/D may be at greater risk of developing negative self-perceptions of themselves as learners, but not of their overall self-worth. Factors found to be relevant in supporting positive self-perceptions include adaptive attributional styles, good relationships with peers and parents, and positive attitudes towards dyslexia and neurodiversity. In some cases, CYP with LitD/Dfelt that others perceived them as unintelligent or idle; for these CYP, a diagnosis led to more positive self-perceptions, as it provided an alternative picture of themselves. There is a need for further research to explore the impact of attributional style and the potential for intervention, as well as CYP’s experiences of diagnosis and the associated advantages or disadvantages.

There has been ongoing debate around the use of the term ‘dyslexia’ to describe the literacy difficulties of certain individuals, however, CYP’s perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of the term have not been directly sought. This study aims to explore the views of young people (YP), with and without experiences of dyslexia, with a particular focus on the impact of labels. A qualitative methodology is used to explore the views of a range of individuals currently in secondary education (aged 13-19). The views of 36 YP (12 with self-reported dyslexia, 12 with self-reported literacy difficulties and 12 with no reported literacy difficulties) were gathered using an online survey. In depth one to-one interviews were also carried out with six YP who reported having dyslexia. Results show that YP saw the dyslexia label as an important factor in gaining appropriate support for difficulties, and highlight the potential for discrimination in terms of access to diagnosis and therefore access to support. The dyslexia label led to changes in perceptions and helped to remove the sense that a YP may be to blame for their difficulties, as dyslexia was seen as having a biological origin. This was beneficial for those individuals who had the label, but led to more negative judgements being made in relation to individuals with literacy difficulties but no dyslexia label. Furthermore, the label was associated with permanence, which is discussed in terms of attribution theory. Implications for Educational Psychologists and school staff are discussed in terms of ensuring that YP, and their teachers, have a good understanding of their literacy needs and are empowered by the way their needs are described, and are not subject to selective stigmatisation

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The role of emotion recognition and externalising behaviour for educational outcomes

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Nicola Samos
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

The first chapter of this theses outlines a systematic literature review investigating the relationship between emotion recognition skills and academic outcomes of school age children. Four databases were systematically searched applying clear inclusion criteria. Six articles were identified and critically appraised to assess the existing literature. The review highlights a positive relationship between emotion recognition skills and academic outcomes. This was identified across a range of countries/cultures, however the utilisation and impact of these skills may differ between genders and be moderated by other factors including cognitive ability, motivation and achievement goals. Although this review supported the hypothesis that strengths in emotion recognition skills are associated with increased academic achievement, a gap in the research was identified surrounding the improvement of emotion recognition skills and impact on outcomes for school age children. The review also highlighted to professionals working within education the importance of the development of these skills for school success.

The second chapter reports on research conducted investigating emotion recognition and behavioural outcomes. Previous research highlights challenges experienced by all children during education can be exacerbated for those with challenging behaviour and redirection of this is crucial for development and academic progress. Further findings consistently document associations between deficits in emotion recognition and conduct difficlties (in addition to psychopathology in general). As a result, emotion recognition training has been developed for use with both antisocial and clinical samples. Previous research has suggested that the Training of Affect Recognition intervention programme (Frommann, Streit, & Wölwer, 2003) is effective in improving emotion recognition, executive function skills and may be suitable for those experincing conduct difficulties. The current research aimed to investigate whether brief delivery of the TAR intervention programme could enhance emotion recognition skills in an adolescent experiencing conduct difficulties compared to a matched wait control pariticipant and attempted to explore potential transfer effects on behaviour. Visual analysis highlighted difficulties in specific areas of emotion recognition consistent with previous research for both participants. Results for the intervention participant showed brief significant improvements in accuracy post intervention,specifically for fear, disgust and surprise. The wait control participant was shown to experience no significant improvement in accuracy throughout the duration of the study. A reduction in school reported negative behaviours for the participant who took part in the intervention during and immediately after its implementation were also reported. Strengths, limitations and implications for Educational Psychologists are also discussed.

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An exploration of how the secondary school experience contributes to elevated anxiety levels for adolescents on the autism spectrum

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Eleanor Hayes
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Children and young people on the autism spectrum show elevated anxiety levels in comparison to typically developing peers and those with other special educational needs. However, despite the significant time spent in school, few researchers have focused on how the school environment contributes to elevated anxiety levels in autism. A systematic review of the literature was conducted, exploring causes of anxious affect for autistic adolescents attending mainstream school. Experiences in the school environment that were highlighted as sources of anxiety included adverse noises, the behaviour of others and the social identity of autistic pupils. Additionally, academic pressure, transitions, disliked subjects, homework and handwriting were highlighted as sources of anxiety. Key frameworks of anxiety and autism (Boulter et al., 2014; Wood & Gadow, 2010) were used to understand these findings.An empirical study was also conducted to explore how the secondary school experience contributed to elevated anxiety following the Intolerance of Uncertainty framework of anxiety and autism proposed by Boulter et al. (2014). A school-based sample of 30 autistic adolescents aged 11-14, took part in the study. Parents completed measures of anxiety, sensory processing, autism symptom severity, and teachers completed a measure of social skills. Participants on the autism spectrum completed a measure of the number and types of experiences causing feelings of anxiety in the school social and learning environment. Indirect pathways from sensory sensitivities and social and environmental experiences in school to anxiety symptoms through intolerance of uncertainty were then tested. Findings supported and extended the key framework of anxiety in autism proposed by Boulter et al. (2014), demonstrating significant indirect pathways from experiences in school, sensory sensitivities and autism traits to anxiety through intolerance of uncertainty.

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Sense of school belonging: How can schools make a difference?

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Ashleigh Shuttleworth
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

The review investigated what school based interventions currently exist for supporting pupils sense of school belonging (SoSB). The search yielded 20 articles to be included in the review, and from these studies, 21 different intervention programmes were identified. Whilst all interventions aimed to increase SoSB, they were variable in many other aspects. To support synthesis of results, interventions were categorised as universal or targeted programmes and further divided based on common themes. Twelve studies reported a positive and significant effect of experimental condition on SoSB scores and one study reported a negative effect of experimental condition. Results support the notion that SoSB is malleable and can be enhanced through intervention support. All studies appear to incorporate aspects of teacher support and/ or personal characteristics, identified as having the largest effects with SoSB within Allen and colleagues’ meta-analysis (2016). In addition, the data presents a trend towards targeted interventions being more effective than universal interventions, presenting particularly positive effects of SoSB for ‘atrisk’ students. Implications are discussed in regards to the utility and effectiveness of having SoSB interventions being led by members of the school community, and in regards to the potential negative effect of peer contagion when running a group intervention with ‘at-risk’ youth.

The empirical paper examined the effectiveness of two experimental school-based diary conditions (gratitude diary and appreciation diary) on the promotion of SoSB and positive affect (PA), in comparison to a control condition (event diary). Participants aged 7 to 11 years (M = 8.76) were recruited from five primary schools in the South of England (N = 287). The intervention was carried out as a class, with pupils randomly allocated to either the gratitude, appreciation or event diary condition. Participants completed the diaries daily for three weeks, leading to 15 possible diary entries. Measures of gratitude, SoSB and PA were obtained at pre-intervention, postintervention and at a three-week follow-up, in addition to a pre-intervention measure of nostalgia proneness. Findings revealed that the intervention had been unsuccessful in manipulating gratitude, and ANOVAs for SoSB and PA revealed no significant effect of condition. However, a moderate positive correlation between gratitude, SoSB and PA change scores was noted, suggesting the existence of a relationship between change in gratitude and change in SoSB and PA. Possible explanations for the lack of condition effect in the current study are presented, in addition to limitations of the study in regards to the validity of the gratitude measures used and fidelity to intervention conditions.

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Adoptive parenting from adolescence to early adulthood

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Leanne Curreli
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Parenting can be challenging at any stage, but when a child goes through adolescence the many physical, emotional, social and cognitive changes mean these challenges are likely to be magnified. The many changes create increasing opportunities for young people to begin exploring their social roles and identity, as well as the rights and the responsibilities that come with those. Whilst the young people are experimenting during this transition, parents may need to provide supervision whilst simultaneously encouraging autonomy and remaining flexible. Parenting is a dynamic process that involves complex interactions between the parent, the young person and their environment. These factors influence the level of responsiveness and supervision provided by a parent in response to their child’s or adolescent’s needs and situation. Within the adoptive family, adolescents can provide an additional level of complexity. Existing literature suggests this is a time of vulnerability in adoptive placements, a time when adoptions are at high risk of placement breakdown. This systematic review explores the literature on the distinctive features of parenting an adopted adolescent. Two main themes were highlighted: parental responsiveness and supervision, and communicative openness, defined as the level of adoption-relevant discussion within an adoptive family. Parental responsiveness was important for adopted adolescents because it allows parents to support adolescent emotional, behavioural and social outcomes, as well as reducing family conflict. Open communication about adoption was found to reduce conflict and increase emotional well-being. Research suggests that being highly attuned and responsive to the young adoptees is linked to greater adoption-related open communication and better outcomes during adolescence.

Traditionally, much of the research regarding adoption has focused on negative outcomes. In recent years, however, the literature has begun to move from risk to resilience (Ferrari, Ranieri, Barni & Rosnati, 2015). Sonuga-Barke, Kennedy, Kumsta, Knights, Golm, Rutter, Maughan, Schlotz and Kreppner (2017) assessed the prevalence of neurodevelopmental and mental health outcomes associated with early deprivation and their persistence into young adulthood. They found that children adopted after six months of age (high risk) had persistently higher levels of neurodevelopmental difficulties and poor life outcomes. The current study utilised longitudinal data from the ERA study (Rutter et al., 1998) to examine if communicative openness during adolescence and associated parenting behaviours, including parental responsiveness and experience of parental adoption journey, predicted the development of resilience in a group of young people from an at-risk sample. The main findings indicated that there were important relationships between aspects of communicative openness, parental responsiveness and parental journey. In addition, the young person’s difficulty discussing their adoption and how and when information was disclosed, were factors relating to the development of resilience from infancy to adulthood. Parental responsiveness and the young person’s own positivity at age four to six years was also related to higher levels of resilience, as was evaluations of adoption, which was found to be stable between each assessment phase. Only higher levels of the young person’s difficulty discussing their adoption at age 15 and higher negative evaluations of adoption significantly predicted/contributed to lower levels of resilience in early adulthood. Lower levels of resilience were associated with poorer educational, emotional and employment outcomes.

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The participation of autistic pupils in decision-making about their school experiences: A case study of one school

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Chantelle Zilli
Submitted: June 2018

Abstract

Beginning reading skills are often taught through phonics-based methods. Learning to read is a cognitively demanding task, and for those children who struggle, research has shown that individualised interventions can facilitate the development of reading skills. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics as a teaching method with typically developing children, less research has evaluated this method with children who are educated in special school settings. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate research over the past 43 years into the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children who are educated in special school settings. The findings suggested that phonics teaching leads to improvements in phonics skills. However, improvements in phonics skills often did not generalise to whole word reading skills.

The empirical paper evaluated the computerised phonics-based intervention Headsprout Early Reading with eight pupils aged 7 to 19 years, educated in a special school for children and young people who experience severe learning difficulties. The intervention took place over 21 weeks. Three learning conditions were employed, such that four participants completed Headsprout as it was designed with typically developing students, two participants did not complete negation activities, and two non-verbal participants completed Headsprout minus speaking activities. Results indicated that all of the participants improved in initial sound fluency, non-word reading, and word recognition. Participants in the no-negation condition showed improvements despite not completing these activities. The findings suggest that individualised phonics-based reading interventions can be used to support development of early reading skills for students are educated in special school settings.

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Evaluating the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children and young people who experience learning difficulties and are educated in Special School settings

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Emma Herring
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Beginning reading skills are often taught through phonics-based methods. Learning to read is a cognitively demanding task, and for those children who struggle, research has shown that individualised interventions can facilitate the development of reading skills. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics as a teaching method with typically developing children, less research has evaluated this method with children who are educated in special school settings. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate research over the past 43 years into the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children who are educated in special school settings. The findings suggested that phonics teaching leads to improvements in phonics skills. However, improvements in phonics skills often did not generalise to whole word reading skills.

The empirical paper evaluated the computerised phonics-based intervention Headsprout Early Reading with eight pupils aged 7 to 19 years, educated in a special school for children and young people who experience severe learning difficulties. The intervention took place over 21 weeks. Three learning conditions were employed, such that four participants completed Headsprout as it was designed with typically developing students, two participants did not complete negation activities, and two non-verbal participants completed Headsprout minus speaking activities. Results indicated that all of the participants improved in initial sound fluency, non-word reading, and word recognition. Participants in the no-negation condition showed improvements despite not completing these activities. The findings suggest that individualised phonics-based reading interventions can be used to support development of early reading skills for students are educated in special school settings.

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