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Expression of basic emotions in primary students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Martina Škrlec (2022) Expression of basic emotions in primary students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. MSc thesis.

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    Emotions play a significant role in everyday life. They guide our thinking, behaviour, motivation, and decisions. Since emotions are strongly present also in the school environment, it is crucial that professionals are aware of their importance, try to understand them and accept the students’ emotions. Children with autism spectrum disorder (hereinafter ASD) who have specific deficits in the socio-emotional aspects are also included in educational institutions, so it is important that professionals know their characteristics, accept them and help them overcome behavioural and emotional difficulties. In the master’s thesis, the analysis was made of the basic emotions that appear in students with ASD in the first five grades of the adapted program with a lower educational standard (hereinafter AP with LES) in class and during breaks. The author tried to determine which situations trigger emotions and whether these situations are more frequently related to persons or objects. Further research questions were whether students with ASD are able to recognize basic emotions with the help of pictorial material, describe them and identify trigger situations related to these emotions, and whether they know which strategies help them manage intense, unpleasant emotions. For the purpose of this research, observations in the natural environment and semi-structured interviews were conducted. The observations were performed with the help of the observation scheme Students’ emotions in the classroom (Smrtnik Vitulić and Prosen, 2017) and they included several students in the first five classes of AP with LES in five different institutions in Slovenia. From the initial sample, students who were diagnosed with ASD or with ASD and other associated disorders were selected. An interview based on the research questions and scientific literature was carried out with four students with ASD. The results of the research showed that students with ASD experience all the basic emotions in the school environment. Most often, they experience joy, followed by anger, fear and sadness. Joy was largely related to interesting learning material, aid, or method. Anger most often occurred because of an unfulfilled desire of a student with ASD, while fear usually appeared because of expectation of failure. Sadness was triggered in equal measure by the loss of an important object (e.g. toy), worse results than those of classmates, a teacher’s rebuke, and by an unfulfilled desire. Joy was more often caused by an object while anger occurred more often because of another person. Fear was more frequently experienced because of an object, and sadness appeared in equal amount because of a person or an object. Students with ASD were most successful in recognizing and naming joy on pictorial material and less successful in recognizing unpleasant emotions. The nonverbal cues by which they recognized the emotion were described very differently by the students and only one described the nonverbal cues for all the emotions. Three students with ASD described trigger situations for the emergence of all emotions on pictorial material, and one student described one situation. They were less successful in describing situations that trigger their own emotions, as only one student described situations for all basic emotions. Three students identified that when experiencing intense, uncomfortable emotions, a teacher or mother helps them or they calm down while playing. The obtained results offer a better insight into the emotions of students with ASD and their comprehension of these emotions. The master’s thesis provides special pedagogical profession in Slovenia with new knowledge about emotions of children with special needs and raises new questions for further research.

    Item Type: Thesis (MSc thesis)
    Keywords: basic emotions, pleasant emotions, unpleasant emotions, autism spectrum disorders, school, lower educational standard
    Number of Pages: 67
    Language of Content: Slovenian
    Mentor / Comentors:
    Mentor / ComentorsIDFunction
    doc. dr. Simona ProsenMentor
    Link to COBISS: https://plus.si.cobiss.net/opac7/bib/peflj/100601347
    Institution: University of Ljubljana
    Department: Faculty of Education
    Item ID: 7122
    Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2022 11:51
    Last Modified: 14 Mar 2022 11:51
    URI: http://pefprints.pef.uni-lj.si/id/eprint/7122

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