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‘Someone like-minded in a big place’: Autistic young adults’ attitudes towards autistic peer support in mainstream education

Crompton, Catherine J; Hallett, Sonny; Axbey, Harriet; McAuliffe, Christine; Cebula, Katie

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Authors

Catherine J Crompton

Sonny Hallett

Harriet Axbey harriet.a.axbey@durham.ac.uk
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

Christine McAuliffe

Katie Cebula



Abstract

Autistic young people in mainstream schools often experience low levels of peer social support, have negative perceptions of their differences and feel disconnected from their school community. Previous research findings have suggested that encouraging autistic young people to explore autistic culture and spending time with autistic peers may be associated with more positive outcomes. Autism-specific peer support is a framework that may support this process. Thirteen participants (eight male/five female) completed semi-structured interviews, exploring the idea of autism-specific peer support within mainstream schools and the practicalities of how it may work within a school setting. Thematic analysis was applied, and three themes are reported: (1) neurodiversity and an ethos of inclusivity, (2) flexibility and (3) benefits and challenges of embedding peer support in the wider school community. The idea of autism-specific peer support for autistic pupils in mainstream secondary schools was generally positively received. Peer support may provide a unique opportunity for autistic pupils to interact in a natural, comfortable way; share useful strategies; and build their identities. Nevertheless, careful design, training and ongoing support, alongside awareness of the rights, needs and preferences of individual pupils involved are likely to be crucial in ensuring the success of any peer support programme.

Citation

Crompton, C. J., Hallett, S., Axbey, H., McAuliffe, C., & Cebula, K. (2023). ‘Someone like-minded in a big place’: Autistic young adults’ attitudes towards autistic peer support in mainstream education. Autism, 27(1), 76-91. https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613221081189

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 5, 2022
Publication Date 2023-01
Deposit Date May 30, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 10, 2023
Journal Autism
Print ISSN 1362-3613
Electronic ISSN 1461-7005
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 1
Pages 76-91
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/13623613221081189

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