For help with a story or to find an expert: 0114 225 2811
Media centre home > News > Doctoral student hoping to break down autism barriers


A postgraduate student with a clinical diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome is hoping her doctoral project will improve the education experience of autistic youngsters.

Sandra Ellis, studying for her doctorate at Sheffield Hallam University, has begun a research study exploring factors that impact on the informal education learning experience for young autistic students. 

Sandra, 45, from Kent, has a clinical diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome, an intellectually high-functioning presentation of autism.

She teaches young autistic students karate and dance in addition to being responsible for a national coaching programme for sports coaches which includes an autism awareness course. 

And she hopes that her research will eventually inform an inclusive curriculum where the diversity of young learners is valued and recognised as well as inform the professional development of teachers.

Sandra is calling for people diagnosed with Asperger's and autism to participate in the study, which can be accessed online.

She said: "If you have a high functioning autism presentation and would like to take part in this study, you are welcome to log on and respond to the questions. 

"The questions are all about your childhood experiences of learning outside the school curriculum.  You can be any age to take part in this phase of the study and there is no need to register.

"It is completely anonymous."

Sandra Ellis

Click to view the image

For longer messages or responses, there is also a link to her website where she celebrates the differences of autism and her on-line blog, which debates issues of autism, education and her own personal journey.

Dr Luke Beardon from Sheffield Hallam's Autism Centre and Sandra's director of studies, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for students with autism to have their voices heard and to potentially make a difference to how they are taught.

"Sandra is embarking on a truly emancipatory research doctorate that could help educators involved with autistic children enormously.

"I hope that she gets hundreds – if not thousands – of responses on her virtual wall to best understand the perceptions of this diverse group of students.”

To take part in the study, click here.

For press information contact:Laurie Harvey on 0114 225 2621 or email