Marita Falkmer defends her doctoral thesis

CHILD PhD-student Marita Falkmer defends her doctoral thesis on how to enhance participation of students with autism in mainstream schools, on January 23rd, 2013.

Marita Falkmer is a teacher in special education specialised in children and adolescents within the autism spectrum.

- Imagine not being able to recognise the faces of your classmates, or the expression on the face of your teacher. Is she happy or angry with you?, says Marita Falkmer.
- These are situations that students with autism may confront daily in mainstream schools.

Social interactions become obstacles rather than facilitators of participation, simply because children with autism often struggle to recognise facial features or emotions.
- Although schools are important social environments for these students, little is known about what is needed to enhance their participation, explains Marita Falkmer.
- That is what my thesis is about.

Based on data collected in laboratories, classrooms and school yards, this inter-professional thesis in disability science explores these students’ daily experiences. Through a variety of methods visual perception, social activities, teachers and schools are scrutinized from a participation perspective.
- Eye tracking reveal how autism impacts on visual search strategies. The students’ own perceptions of participation are compared with their classmates’, and related to their teachers’ activities. Observations are compared to self-reports, Marita Falkmer continues.

While this thesis paints a rather dark picture of the situation for students with autism in mainstream schools, it presents some positive findings and offers suggestions for improvements. As shown in the thesis, facilitating the complex construct of participation requires different measurements and complex interventions.

--------------------------------------------------------------Marita Falkmer is the third PhD-student to defend her thesis within Jönköping University's cooperation with the Swedish Institute for Disability Studies (SIDR).

The traditional nailing

The traditional nailing of Marita Falkmer's doctoral thesis in Disability Research to the wall takes place on Monday, 14 January, 2013 at 13.30 in the foyer of the HLK Building.

Public defence of doctoral thesis

Marita Falkmer defends her doctoral thesis in Disability Research From Eye to Us: Prerequisites for and levels of participation in mainstream school of persons with Autism Spectrum Conditions on Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, at 13.15 in Hb116 at HLK. Faculty examiner is professor Sven Bölte, Karolinska Institutet.

Full text version

Note that the defence will be held in Swedish.