’you talk and try to think, together’ – a case study of a student diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder participating in philosophical dialogues

Childhood and Philosophy 19:1-28 (2023)
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We present results from a single case study based on semi-structured interviews with a student (a boy in school year 3) diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and his school staff after participating in a short and small-scale intervention carried out in a socio-economically disadvantaged Swedish elementary school in 2019. The student participated in a seven week long intervention with a total of 12 philosophical dialogues (ranging from 45 to 60 minutes). Two facilitators, both with years of facilitation experience and teacher degree and at least BA in philosophy, facilitated the majority of the dialogues and mainly followed a ”routine” procedure. The student was interviewed in direct connection to the end of the intervention about his experiences from the dialogues and his perceptions about whether and how the dialogues had influenced him. The student’s two teachers, who had participated in the dialogues as participants, were interviewed as a pair, also in direct connection to the end of the intervention, while the school principal was interviewed two years after the study. These staff interviews concerned the staff’s experiences of the influence of the dialogues on the students within the intervention as well as transfer effects to other contexts in school. The data from the study include detailed elaborations from a student perspective of different effects on the student’s communicative and cognitive development, which are in several respects supported also by staff reports. The results show that the student was able, interested, and willing to participate in philosophical dialogues, and our data point to several positive outcomes for the student in the communicative and cognitive domains.

Author Profiles

Viktor Gardelli
Lulea University
Ylva Backman
Lulea University


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