School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Bunnie Claxton


Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, Critical Disability Theory, Girls, Females


Education | Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of middle school teachers who work with girls with high functioning autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in eastern North Carolina. The theory guiding this study was disability theory, also known as critical disability theory (CDT). CDT, as described by Pothier and Devlin, Garland-Thomson, Glynne-Owen, Oliver, and Siebers was appropriate for this study as it sought to embrace individuals with disabilities rather than seeing disabilities as a deficiency to be cured. Because girls with ASD represent a seldom-studied group, this study may add to the literature by examining the experiences of teachers who work with these students. The central research question for this study was: How do middle school teachers in eastern North Carolina describe their experiences working with girls with high functioning autism spectrum disorder? A transcendental phenomenological qualitative design was used. Participants were recruited from middle schools in one eastern North Carolina county and included 10 teachers who have experience teaching at least one female student with high functioning autism. Data was collected through demographic surveys, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews, focus groups, and personal artifacts. Data was analyzed using Moustakas’s modification of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen process. Consistent with prior research, this study identified the need for better training and greater understanding of girls with high functioning autism. This study may contribute to the current research and shape practical application by providing understanding of how teachers describe their experiences and how those experiences impact students. Future research should consider a broader group of participants and quantitative methods.