Using the Special Interests of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Improve Motivation and Engagement within Mainstream Secondary Education

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Southampton Education School


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) account for the largest group of children in English schools
who receive additional support through an Education, Health and Care Plan. Core characteristics of ASD
include communication and social interaction difficulties, and behaviours or interests considered to be
restricted and/or repetitive, otherwise known as special interests. Therefore, some classroom practices,
such as group participation, motivation and engagement, can be challenging for children with ASD,
resulting in experiences of exclusion and underachievement.
Special interests relate to an increased focus on specific objects or areas of knowledge. Good practice
guidance has suggested that using these interests appropriately within a child's learning can improve
their motivation and engagement, however there is little research that has directly investigated the role
of special interests in learning.
The aim of my proposed research is to explore the concept of embedding special interests into aspects of
teaching to encourage greater motivation for children with ASD. My intention is to identify strategies that
are practical to implement in mainstream school environments and address the following research
1) What are the different ways special interests are used within classrooms to facilitate motivation and
engagement for children with ASD?
2) In what ways is it best to approach the implementation of these methods into classrooms to support
the learning of children with ASD?
The outcomes of this research may help to improve the motivation and engagement of children with ASD
in education, resulting in positive implications for their achievement and future opportunities.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000673/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2442965 Studentship ES/P000673/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 Roseanna Tansley