Children going to school

Autism-Friendly Schools Project

Including the Voices of Autistic Pupils in Educational Provision in Ireland

Research Description

In March 2023, a new study was launched that will work together with autistic children and family members to capture the missing voices of autistic pupils in policy and practice to address ongoing challenges around the full inclusion of autistic pupils in education.  To further identify barriers to inclusion, the study will also examine attitudes to, and understanding of Autism, among the wider educational community of parents and teachers.

This is a highly interdisciplinary study to meet the objectives of the Irish Research Council COALESCE funding award and the team draw on a wealth of experience in psychology, health, and education to investigate this key issue of the experiences of autistic children in education and to conduct rigorous research which is sensitive to the needs of autistic children and their families.

Aim of the Research

The aim of this research project is to investigate inclusion from the perspective of autistic children in primary and post-primary schools, with the aim of informing policy and practices in inclusive education.

Who is conducting the research?

The research project is funded by the Irish Research Council and is led by Dr Sinéad Mc Nally (PI at the DCU Institute of Education) and Professor Mary Rose Sweeney (co-PI at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland). 

Dr Aoife Lynam conducted the first round of interviews with autistic children and their families as postdoctoral researcher on the project and Dr Lisa Keenan is conducting the next round of interviews with autistic children and their families as the new postdoctoral researcher on the project. Mr Ciarán Ramsbottom is research assistant on the project. 

The study is supported by AsIAm, Ireland's national autism charity.

Who do we want to talk to for our research?

We would like to speak to autistic children and young people (aged 6-18 years) about their experiences in primary and post-primary schools.  Those who self-select to take part will have a diagnosis of autism.  We welcome all those who meet this criterion to take part.  We will work with autistic young people and their families to find a way of communication that works best for you. 

Autistic young people can communicate with us through, for example, PECS, visual aids, communicating through parent or guardian using sign language or assistive technology.  We will make every effort to support those who self-select to take part in the research.

How to contact the project for more information

If you would like to find out more or register your interest in this study, you can contact us at:

Research Team:

Lead Principal Investigator:  Dr Sinéad McNally –
Co-Principal Investigator:  Prof Mary Rose Sweeney –
Postdoctoral Researcher:  Dr Lisa Keenan –
Research Assistant: Mr Ciarán Ramsbottom –
Former Postdoctoral Researcher:  Dr Aoife Lynam –
As I, RSCI, IRC Logos

Read about our recent findings here:

Autistic pupils’ experiences in primary and post-primary schools: A scoping review and consultation with autistic pupils in Ireland Preprint Report


Overhead view of primary school children