Contact person:
Madeleine Sjöman
  • Malmö Universitet
Responsible at MaU:
Madeleine Sjöman
Project members at MaU:
Collaborators :
  • Kari-Anne Bottegård Næss Professor Oslo Universitet Institutet för specialpedagogik
  • Vera Coelho Lektor Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences - University of Porto
  • Kimberly Nesbitt Docent Department of Human Development & Family Studies University of New Hampshire U.S.A
  • Frida Lygnegård Lektor Avdelningen för rehabilitering Hälsohögskolan Jönköpings University
Time frame:
01 April 2020 - 01 June 2024
Research subject:
  • Special Education

Project descrption

Children engaged in preschool activities experience a sense of well-being, and they learn and develop cognitive self-regulation (CSR). CSR refers to children's ability to manage positive and negative emotions, to inhibit or control their behavior, and to shift focus and attention. All these skills are essential for the child to meet the expectations of the preschool and the curriculum and for the child's well-being. However, not all children are engaged to the same extent as other children. Thus, they do not get the same opportunities to develop cognitive self-regulation and may experience a lower degree of well-being.

Children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC) might have difficulties remaining engaged in activities and play to the same extent as other children in preschool. In the preschool, this entails significant pedagogical consequences for the staff, who need to understand the child's disabilities and cognitive processing to adapt to the environment. Moreover, staff need to know how compensatory aids might be used to support the child's interpretation and understanding in different contexts. Teachers' lack of knowledge about the difficulties children with ASC might face in the preschool context may lead to general support rather than special support being adapted to meet their needs.

The support provided seldom relates to how to support the children's engagement. Instead, it usually concerns how to reduce negative behavior influencing other children or preschool activities. To improve teachers' knowledge of difficulties for children with autism spectrum conditions (ASC), the Swedish Government in 2021 introduced examination objectives in the teacher program and the program for the special educators. Teachers' knowledge of ASC and its consequences can contribute to the staff planning activities and providing special support to children with ASC, thereby creating the same conditions as other children to learn and to develop. Nevertheless, the effect of early interventions on engagement and cognitive self-regulation in children with and without ASC in the Swedish context is less known. Therefore, the current project aims to contribute knowledge about how early interventions in preschool can be planned, implemented, and evaluated to contribute to engagement and cognitive self-regulation in children with ASC.

The project is divided into three parts. Initially, a systematic literature review was conducted to identify effective teaching strategies and methods contributing to engagement and cognitive self-regulation in children with NDC. The outcome forms the basis for planning and implementing of teacher interventions that favor engagement and cognitive self-regulation in children with NDC in Swedish preschools. Thereafter, the interventions will be evaluated with staff teams within the preschool. Finally, a pilot randomized controlled trial will be conducted in which teacher interventions are implemented to examine the relative effect on child observable engagement and cognitive self-regulation in children aged 3–5 years with and without NPF. The results will be presented in international scientific publications, on Malmö University's website, and at conferences.