04 SES 04 C, Intellectual DisabilityAnd Inclusion: From Striving to Thriving
In this paper, focus will be paid to the choice of school process of Icelandic students with intellectual disabilities on the upper secondary level, from the perspectives of inclusion and social justice. Those, who have completed compulsory education, have received equivalent education or have reached the age of 16, have the right study at the upper secondary level in Iceland. Upper secondary schools have however permission to restrict admission to their schools or specific programs within the schools by asking for specific requirements regarding students ‘grades, since they aim at offering students an education that is appropriate for their preparation. This means that those with the best grades have unlimited choices while students with low grades have restricted choices. Inclusion is the official school policy in Iceland and is stated very clearly in Compulsory School Act, No. 91/2008 but is not visible in the Upper Secondary Education Act (2008). Inclusion is nevertheless mentioned in the Regulation on Students with Special Needs in Upper Secondary Schools (230/2012) but the purpose of the Regulation is to ensure that students have equal opportunities to inclusive education. Students with disabilities shall be provided education and special support in their studies and students shall study alongside other students as far as possible (Upper Secondary Education Act, 2008). When applying for admission into upper secondary schools, students with disabilities are, however, not included in the main application process since their process starts earlier and lasts one month while the application process for others starts later and lasts over two and a half months. Students applying in general education have an opportunity to reconsider their choice before final admittance; students labeled with intellectual disabilities do not. To add to the segregation, students with intellectual disabilities are not applying for programs in the mainstream, but specific programs for disabled students, which is not even offered in all upper secondary schools. Their pathway is therefore very different from that of their non-disabled peers. This process is the motivation for this qualitative research that is situated within the Disability Studies in Education paradigm. DSE scholars define inclusive education as full participation of students in general education settings with minimal or no segregation into special education or other forms of exclusionary programs. They claim that disability is a social construct rather than a medical issue (Baglieri, Bejoian et al. 2011; Connor 2014; Connor et. al. 2008). If students with intellectual disabilities are to get equal opportunities to inclusive education, as stated in the Regulation, things will probably need to change considerably. Following a different pathway when applying for schools and applying for segregated programs can hardly be described as inclusive, given the DSE definition, therefore we ask; “What challenges need to be addressed in the choice of school and application process for students with intellectual disabilities in Iceland in order for the process to become inclusive? “
The method used to analyze data stems from Jackson‘s and Mazzei‘s (2012, 2013) thinking with theory, plugging one text into another. They claim that data interpretation and analysis does not occur through systemic coding and they defy simplistic treatment of data, which consists of reducing complicated data to thematic chunks. Instead, they emphasize the importance of theory and the use of theory to think with data, or the use of data to think with theory. By doing so, a researcher is able to achieve a reading that is both within and against interpretation. Instead of centering the subject, as is done in interpretive qualitative inquiry, they choose to disrupt this obligatory centering found in the traditional qualitative research and cut the center open to find out what novelty might be provoked. This is possible through the process of plugging a theory into data and producing something new. This analysis method requires that a researcher focuses on philosophical concepts and uses these concepts to think with the data and vice versa (Jackson and Mazzei, 2013). Data was collected from 2012 – 2018 through interviews with eleven students, five parents, two school administrators and four supervisors. All schools administrators/supervisors in schools that offer program for disabled students in the capital area were offered to participate in the study. One school declined, five schools accepted and three schools did not respond. Students and parents were contacted through various means, through schools, friends and work.
Theories guiding the analysis process are theories connected to marginality, disability and social justice. These theories are influential on the analytical questions asked. The philosophical concepts that emerged from the analysis are inclusion/exclusion, micro aggression, systemic violence and presumed competence. These concepts were used to cast a light on the challenges that need to be addressed to make the process more inclusive. Preliminary findings suggest that the challenges can be found in limited choices, which can partially be traced to the emphasis on medical diagnosis of students and the admission criteria that each program sets for itself. Limited choices can also be traced to unofficial specialization of programs as well as insufficient support available in the mainstream; making extensive support needs serve as a barrier to general education. Moreover, even though the qualification levels in upper secondary schools signal presumed competence they also, conversely, suggest presumed incompetence. Language, whether in texts or in communication, serves as a powerful tool in maintaining stereotypical views on students with disabilities.
Baglieri, S., L. Bejoian, A. Broderick, D. Connor and J. Valle. 2011. [Re] claiming “Inclusive Education” Toward Cohesion in Educational Reform: Disability Studies Unravels the Myth of the Normal Child. Teachers College Record 113 (10): 2122–2154. Retrieved from: https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ951089 Connor, D. J., S. Gabel, D. J. Gallagher & M. Morton. 2008. Disability Studies and Inclusive Education – Implications for Theory, Research and Practices. International Journal of Inclusive Education 12 (5–6): 441–457. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603110802377482 Connor, D. 2014. Social Justice in Education for Students with Disabilities. In The SAGE Handbook of Special Education, edited by L. Florian, 111–129. London: Sage. Jackson, A. Y. And Mazzei, L. A. (2012). Thinking with theory in qualitative research. Viewing data across multiple perspectives. New York: Routledge. Jackson, A. Y. And Mazzei, L. A. (2013). Plugging one text into another: Thinking with theory in Qualitative Researc. Qualitative Inquiry, 19(4): 251 – 271. Doi: 10.1177/1077800412471510 Upper Secondary Education Act, No. 92/2008
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