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A sequential mixed-methods approach to exploring the experiences of practitioners who have worked in multi-sensory environments with autistic children

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-03-28, 05:46 authored by Katy UnwinKaty Unwin, Georgina Powell, Catherine RG Jones
Background & Aims: Multi-Sensory Environments (MSEs) are common in special-needs schools and are widely used with autistic pupils. In this exploratory sequential mixed-methods study, we explored the beliefs and experiences of practitioners who regularly use MSEs with autistic pupils. Methods: Qualitative interviews with ten practitioners (9 female, aged 24–62 years) identified six themes reflecting beliefs about MSE use with autistic children. To explore wider relevance of these themes, codes from the themes were converted into a 28-item online survey. Results: Qualitative themes included: (1) MSEs are perceived to benefit behaviour, attention and mood, (2) MSEs have distinct properties that facilitate benefits, (3) MSE use should be centred on the child's needs, (4) MSEs are most effective when the practitioner plays an active role, (5) MSEs can be used for teaching and learning, and (6) MSE use can present challenges. Responses to the survey (n = 102, 93 female, aged 21–68 years) generally showed good agreement with the original interviews, and there was modest evidence that MSE training affected beliefs about the benefits of MSE use. Conclusions & Implications: These results provide insight into possible benefits of MSE use for autistic children and are relevant when considering the development of practitioner guidelines.


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: KU's work on this project was funded by a PhD provided the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), UK and Cardiff University. GP is funded by a Health and Care Research Wales Fellowship [SCF-18-1524].


Publication Date



Research in Developmental Disabilities



Article Number



12p. (p. 1-12)





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