Capturing the world of physical education through the eyes of pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Penny Lamb, Dianna Firbank

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Research Aims
The potential benefits of physical education are universal for all children. However, facilitating such benefits in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) requires careful planning. This poster reports on a small-scale case study at one school in eastern England, exploring physical education through the eyes of children (n=5), aged 12-16, with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Photo-elicitation was adopted as the research tool to accord authority to the voices of the pupils, empowering them to share their feelings towards the subject by capturing significant aspects of physical education. Pupils took photos using an IPad and engaged in a one-to-one interview with their teacher during their physical education lesson. The photographs provided prompts for greater exploration during unstructured interviews.

Bourdieu’s conceptual tools of field and capital informed interpretation of the findings, highlighting the emotive and powerful feelings of pupils towards physical education, developed through their relationship towards particular spaces: physical education changing rooms, physical education corridors, the physical education teacher’s office and physical education activities. The teacher’s office was regarded positively as were activities that facilitated engagement with peers. Opportunities to be heroic, such as scoring a goal for their team or being an official were important factors as were some team sports. However, the changing rooms and physical education corridors were viewed with trepidation. The data highlighted how pupil’s embodied dispositions interacted with these spaces to create forms of symbolic capital, illustrated by the pupils as worries and fears towards physical education.

By drawing upon Bourdieu’s conceptual ideas as a guide, the findings contribute to the understanding of physical education as a complex and diverse field; one created through many micro-spaces that contest the acquisition and embodiment of particular practices and forms of social and physical capital. The project highlights how understanding the interaction between pupils and spaces allows planning beyond the teaching process itself. The modelling of inclusive practice needs to extend beyond the four walls of the ‘working’ classroom. Anticipating barriers presented within ‘other’ integral fields of physical education space such as: changing rooms, corridors, the teacher’s office and within activities, can help in preparing a rich and inclusive experience for pupils with ASD. Teachers may be better informed in providing strategies to facilitate communication and social interaction whilst allowing all pupils to access learning and succeed within physical education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 8 Jul 2014
EventAssociation for Physical Education (afPE) National Conference - Enstone, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20125 Jul 2012


ConferenceAssociation for Physical Education (afPE) National Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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