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PhD, University of Bristol
MEd Research Methods in Education, University of Bristol
MA Infant Observational Studies, University of East London/Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust
PGDip Creative Arts Therapies, University of Hertfordshire
PGCE, University of Durham
BA (Hons.), University of Warwick


My background is in special educational needs and disability having worked for over 20 years in a range of educational settings, as a teacher, SENCo, specialist teacher, and as a creative arts therapist. I have experience of supporting children and young people with a variety of learning needs – most recently in relation to autism – as well as their teachers, families and carers. Throughout my career in education I have been interested in understanding difference and diversity, specifically in relation to how this is constructed in schools and its impact on individual learning and personal lives.

In 2007, I commenced a PhD study at the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, investigating the play cultures of autistic children and their friends in school settings. I subsequently moved into higher education and continue to do research in this area. Presently, I am carrying out a postdoctoral project to investigate teaching and learning in relation to autistic pupils in mainstream classrooms through analysis of naturally occurring learning interactions. I am interested in exploring the relevance of understandings about what constitutes effective pedagogy and inclusive practice to the learning of pupils on the spectrum. I also have a great interest in the link between theory and practice in relation to special educational needs and the usefulness of a participatory approach to research.

I am currently working on a number of other research projects, notably, a large-scale evaluation of ALN systems in Wales and an investigation of learning progression as it relates to the new curriculum reforms in Wales for pupils with ALN/SEN.

I am course leader for the MA/Postgraduate Certificate in autism.


Course leader for PG Cert/MA SEN/ALN (Autism)
PhD supervisor
Member of ethics sub-committee, Faculty of Life Sciences
Cognate group co-ordinator for autism and developmental disorders


Conn, C., Lewis, M. and Matthews, S. (submitted) ‘Analysis of classroom dialogue as support for learning for young pupils with autism in mainstream schools’, International Journal of Inclusive Education.
Barnard-Dadds, T. and Conn, C. (2018) ‘Challenges of listening to an autistic pupil in a person-centred planning meeting’, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs.
Conn, C. (2017) ‘Pedagogical intersubjectivity, autism and education: Can teachers teach so that autistic pupils learn?’ International Journal of Inclusive Education,
Conn, C. and Drew, S. (2017) ‘Sibling narratives of autistic play culture’, Disability and Society, 32(6), pp. 853-67,
Conn, C. (2016) Observation, Assessment and Planning in Inclusive Autism Education: Supporting Learning and Development, London and New York: Routledge.
Conn. C. (2016) Play and Friendship in Inclusive Autism Education: Supporting Learning and Development, London and New York: Routledge.
Conn, C. (2015) ‘“Sensory highs”, “vivid rememberings” and “interactive stimming”: Children’s play cultures and experiences of friendship in autistic autobiographies’, Disability and Society, 30(8), pp. 1192-1206.
Conn, C. (2015) ‘Essential conditions for research with children with autism: Issues raised by two case studies’, Children and Society, 29(1), pp. 59-68.
Conn, C. (2014) Autism and the Social World of Childhood: A Sociocultural Perspective on Theory and Practice, Oxford and New York: Routledge.
Conn, C. (2014) ‘Investigating the social engagement of children with autism in mainstream schools for the purpose of identifying learning targets’, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 14(3), pp. 153-159.
Jarrold, C. and Conn, C. (2011) ‘The development of pretend play in autism’, in A. Pellegrini (ed.) Oxford Handbook of the Development of Play, New York and London: Oxford University Press.


Fellow of The Higher Education Academy


Conference presentation:
09/2017 ‘Responding to autistic sociality in conversations with pupils about their learning’, British Educational Research Association Conference, University of Sussex, Brighton UK.
05/2017 ‘Negotiating deficit discourses of autism in narrative inquiry’, Nordic Network on Disability Research, Orebrö University, Sweden
11/2015 Policy Forum for Wales Keynote Seminar: Additional learning needs provision in Wales, Cardiff. Speaker and panel member.
09/2011 3rd European Conference on Child and Adolescent Mental Health in Educational Settings, University of Cambridge.
07/2011 International Play Association (IPA) Triennial Conference, UK.
07/2011 Wales’ 4th International Autism Conference.
07/2010 Centre for the Study of Childhood & Youth, University of Sheffield.


1. Welsh Government commissioned research to establish baseline position of the ALN system in Wales. With Arad Research. 80k.

2. Valley and Vale Community Arts/Bridgend Council ‘Bridging the Gap’ – investigating use of drama with girls on the autism spectrum. 60k. Paul Hamlyn Foundation.


Inclusive education
Participatory research
Children’s play and friendship cultures

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