Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Katherine Terras


This phenomenological study examined the school experiences of adolescents with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in sixth through eighth grade. Two research questions guided this study: what were the participants’ day to day experiences and what were their perceptions of those experiences? The results of the study yielded three conclusions. First, school can be a confusing and unpredictable source of stress. This stress can be ameliorated through increased predictability in the classroom and through adaptations to materials based on individualized needs and preferences. Specific classroom based strategies were identified and discussed, with clear shared preferences emergent. Participants indicated preferences for specific traits in teachers. Second, friendships were desirable, but symptomology associated with ASD makes it difficult to establish and maintain them. Participants needed peers to remain quiet in the classroom so they could focus and pay attention. The issue of bullying emerged as a shared concern, likely related to difficulties in accurately reading peers’ social cues. Third, individuals with ASD are capable of regulating emotions if they are taught how to identify early signs of dysregulation and are supported in using self-calming strategies. Great variability was demonstrated in the level of insight in identifying dysregulation and in using adaptive calming strategies across participants.