For a few weeks now I have been clear that my DPhil is about the learning journeys of those involved with supporting and caring for children and young people on the autistic spectrum. Having read a lot of articles with varying degrees of relevance, it is becoming clear that this needs some refining. Most of the literature on parents with children on the spectrum seems to focus on parents of children with classic autism, rather than Aspergers or HFA, and much of it looks at support needs, especially around the time of diagnosis and several articles include parents of children with either autism or Downs syndrome. My focus is on the high functioning/Aspergers end of the spectrum and I need to reflect this in my title.
The other contentious area at the moment – no doubt there are others waiting to appear over the horizon – is the categorisation of participants. I have been dividing people into parents, professionals and non-professionals and recognising that some people may fall into more than one category. However, this may not be the most appropriate or helpful categorisation. The idea behind splitting off professionals was to identify those with a formally recognised qualification from those without. My reasoning lay in the privileging of knowledge that is formally accredited over other knowledge, but it probably isn’t as straightforward as that.
For example, two teachers are both professionals with a formally accredited qualification in education. Both may be employed as SENCOs, but one may have additional specialist qualifications and several years experience of working with children with special needs and the other may have taken the role on because the school needed a SENCO and it was a way of getting a promotion, but have little experience or special knowledge of SENs or related administrative procedures.
This suggests that I may be looking at a generic/specialist split, but I am unsure that will meet my needs. I already know that social care staff, even senior, highly qualified care staff, are on lower pay scales than teaching staff. Am I therefore looking at two different things: professional as measured by possession of a formally recognised professional qualification and specialist as measured by knowledge and experience within the domain.
This also challenges my third category of parents. Some parents may also have professional qualifications and/or specialist knowledge in the domain.
This would suggest that the professional, non-professional and parent categorisation is only useful in terms of identifying the jobs people might be doing within the domain. As my focus is on learning journeys (how, what and why people know about the autistic spectrum), it may be that I need to slice across the roles and instead be looking at those with accredited qualifications, those with specialist knowledge but without accredited qualifications and those with neither accredited qualifications or specialist knowledge.
Probably need to think about this a bit more…