04 SES 03 A, Improving Inclusion of Children with Intellectual Disability in School
This research is part of an overall project which objective is to deepen the understanding of learning journeys children with intellectual disability (ID) make in transition from preschool to school, recognizing diverse abilities and experiences. Although educational transitions is a growing field of research there is limited research of educational transitions of children with ID. Internationally, most countries require schools to be inclusive of children with disabilities. An overview of how special education is organized in European countries (Wehmeyer & Patton, 2017) show that many countries have developed educational policy towards inclusion of students with special educational needs. In Sweden, all children with ID have the right to be in inclusive education. Despite this only one seventh of all children 7-15 years old with ID is in inclusive education in mainstream school (National Agency of Education, 2016). Children with ID often need individual adaptations in pedagogical settings both concerning learning, e. g. communication aids and adapted material, and care, e.g. extra support in everyday activities and medical supervision. A survey study of 253 special school teachers’ collaborative interdisciplinary work in transition to special school for young children with ID showed that knowledge about everyday functioning, communication, learning and health care needs of children were transferred between settings (Wilder & Lillvist, 2016). Knowledge about communication and health care needs was considered very important to transfer. Also, the special school teachers reported to gain knowledge about children primarily from preschool teachers: generally, parents were only involved in transferring knowledge about their children’s health care needs and not about learning. However, international research show that parents of children with ID are willing to cooperate with schools about children’s learning potentials and progress (e.g. Janus et al., 2008). Knowledge is needed about how to take account to and how to build on these children’s learning in transition to school.
Children’s educational transitions occur at several stages in their preschool- and school years, and educational transitions involve changes in the identity and agency of individuals. Three levels of change have been identified: the individual, relationships and contextual levels (Griebel & Niesel, 2009). Children’s learning journeys are developed on these levels by collaboration between settings. A model of the conceptual framework for the theoretical concept learning journey was proposed by Wilder and Lillvist (submitted). In this model key factors for children’s learning journeys are the dynamics of learning, continuity/discontinuity, collaboration, change and time in children’s contexts. Children’s learning journeys are constructed through the dynamics of the above factors influencing each other in each context in which the child is active. Using the conceptual framework of learning journey as described above, this study attempted to pinpoint the key factor learning.
The aim of the study was to explore teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of and responses to children’s learning of 5-7 year old children with ID, in their transition from preschool to school. The research question was: How do parents and teachers perceive and respond to children's learning in the transition from preschool to school when children have ID?
Methods: The transitions from preschool to school of eight children with ID were followed during one year as a multiple case study. Young children with ID are dependent on adults that know them well and the focus in this study was on stakeholders’ perspectives. Parents, preschool teachers and school teachers of each child were interviewed in order to understand their meaning making of the children’s learning as it was shown in their perceptions of and in their responses to the children’s learning. The multiple case study is not a comparison between cases, instead the design enables description and interpretation of a phenomenon through multiple cases (Stake, 2006). The phenomenon to be studied in this study was learning in transition. Four cases were followed and data consecutively collected during 2013-2014, and another 4 cases were followed and data consecutively collected during 2014-2015. Interviews with parents, preschool- and school teachers were performed on three occasions pre- and post-transition, forty-eight interviews were collected and 47 were used for analyses. The interviews were semi-structured and focused on children’s learning and learning situations, participation and collaboration in transition. The same interview guide was used for all informants over all time points, although some adjustments were made depending on time points, e.g. expectations of transition vs experiences of transition. The analysis of the interviews were inspired by interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). The purpose of IPA is to describe the different aspects that exist of a phenomenon and also to capture the interpretative essence of the phenomenon. In being inspired by IPA, meaning making through the experiences of the informants was focus. In order to manage data of 47 interviews the content and meaning making of our informants’ statements with the focus on perceptions and responses to learning was analyzed. In analyses each step of analysis as suggested in IPA was followed (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009). Before commencement, the study was approved by the Swedish Ethics Committee for Research (Dnr: 2013/512).
Findings and Conclusions: The results found that teachers’ and parents’ meaning making of the children’s learning in the transition from preschool to school were built up of three master themes: ‘organizing for child wellbeing’, ‘supporting communication’ and ‘adapting strategies and approaches’. The first master theme regarded statements about the informants’ focus on child wellbeing in relation to system resources and child needs. Subthemes for this master theme were: professional teachers, system sustainability, child vulnerability and progression of development. The second master theme regarded statements about how to support the children’s complex communication needs and the links between communication and learning. Subthemes for this master theme were: AAC – alternative, augmentative communication, adult direct support, trusting relationships and learning communication. Finally, the third master regarded the informants’ perceptions of adaptations needed and made in strategies and approaches to the children’s learning. Subthemes were: structured activities, collaboration, peer interaction and child autonomy. The results also showed that parents, preschool teachers and school teachers had divergent perceptions of learning. School teachers held a more scholastic view about learning while preschool teachers held a view about learning that was related to child development more generally. In their holistic view about their children’s learning parents were much focused on progression in learning. Conclusively, the results show that collaboration between parents and teachers is imperative for a continuity in learning and for creating positive learning situations for children with ID. By specifically focusing on the dynamics of a child’s learning in contexts over time knowledge is gained about what builds up the child’s learning journey. This knowledge can be used to understand how to organise educational transition from preschool to school as well as how to explicitly work with the children’s learning, both for children with and without disabilities.
Griebel, W & Niesel, R. (2009). A Developmental Psychology Perspective in Germany: Co‐Construction of Transitions between Family and Education System by the Child, Parents and Pedagogues, Early Years, 29:1, 59-68. Janus, M., Kopenchanski, L., Cameron, R., Hughes, D. (2008). In Transition: Experiences of Parents of Children with Special Need at School Entry. Early Childhood Education Journal, 35, 479-485. National Agency of Education. (2017). Beskrivande Data 2016. Förskola, Skola och Vuxenutbildning. Rapport Nr.452 [Descriptive Statistics 2016. Preschool, School and Adult Education. Report nr. 452]. Stockholm: Skolverket [National Agency for Education]. Smith, J.A., Flowers, P. & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. London: Sage. Stake, R.E. (2006). Multiple Case Study Analysis. New York: The Guilford Press. Wehmeyer, M., & Patton, J. (2017). International Handbook of Special Education. Praeger Publishers. Wilder, J, & Lillvist, A. (2016). Collaboration in Transitions from Preschool: Young Children with Intellectual Disabilities. In POET - Pedagogies of Educational Transitions, Eds, N. Ballam, B. Perry & A. Garpelin. 59-74. Dordrecht: Springer. Wilder, J. & Lillvist, A. (submitted) Learning Journey: A Conceptual Framework for Analyzing Children’s Learning in Educational Transitions.
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