04 SES 03 D, What You See Is Not What You Get: Disability Revisited
Over the past decades, the field of special needs education has assisted to substantial changes to a point in which the inclusion paradigm is central to contemporary discourses and practices. Considered as the educational proposal that aims to realize the principles of public schools, such as quality, efficiency and equity in education for all students (Sanches-Ferreira, 2007), inclusive education has been implemented in a significant number of countries supported by the development of policies fostering the inclusion of students with additional support needs in mainstream environments (Florian, 2014). As this movement gained momentum, research in special education focused relevant factors for the effective implementation of inclusive education. Indeed, several studies demonstrated that equity in access is insufficient to guarantee full participation and social acceptance of students with disabilities (McDougall, DeWit, King, Miller, & Killip, 2004). One of those factors concern attitudes of typically developing peers, which have been frequently considered a barrier to full inclusion of students with disabilities within regular schools (McDougall et al., 2004; de Boer et al., 2012; WHO, 2001). Several authors state that the social participation and academic development of students with additional support needs depends on attitudes and social acceptance exhibited by their typically developing peers (Rillotta & Nettelbeck, 2007). Several initiatives have been taken to promote children’s positive attitudes towards peers with disabilities through the implementation of disability awareness programmes (e.g., Ison et al., 2010; Rillotta & Nettelbeck, 2007). The premise for developing disability awareness programmes is that negative attitudes stem from the lack of experience and knowledge about disability (Ison et al., 2010). By intervening to increase knowledge and understanding of disabilities it is expected that children’s attitudes may be improved, favouring, as a parallel effect, the participation of students with disabilities in educational contexts (King et al., 2003).
This study aims to compare attitudes towards children with disabilities of typically developing peers who had or had not participated in disability awareness activities. Furthermore, the study evaluate the effects of two different disability awareness interventions. For that, two disability awareness interventions of different length and using different attitudes change approaches were implemented.
Participants were 181 elementary school students (6 to 10 years) from one school in the north of Portugal. Parental informed consent and school board’s approval for the children’s participation in the awareness activities and filling in the attitudes questionnaire were obtained. The sampling procedure attended to the class composition and school demand. Three groups were formed. G1 consisted of first grade students from one class that had completed eight 50-minute sessions of a disability awareness program over eight weeks. The disability awareness program used a multiple-components approach for promoting attitudes towards children with disabilities through the combination of cognitive, affective and behavioural strategies. The strategies included: (1) explanatory and positive information delivery, (2) simulation activities, (3) training in social interaction strategies, (4) activities and interaction opportunities with people with disabilities, and (5) whole-school disability awareness activities in which participants exhibited what they learnt to other peers, enhancing the school community involvement. G2 consisted of 2nd, 3rd and 4th-grade students who had completed three 50-minute sessions of disability awareness over one week. Activities consisted of exposure to people with different type of disabilities. Finally, G3 included first grade students from other class who had not be target of any intervention. All participants completed the modified version of the Chedoke-McMaster Attitudes Towards Children with Handicaps Scale, CATCH (Alves & Lopes-dos-Santos, 2014) pre- and post-intervention.
The results support the prediction that more information about and contact with people with disabilities promote positive attitudes. Attitudes among students from G1 and G2 were significantly more positive after the completion of the intervention, whereas students from G3 who had not participated in the intervention didn’t registered any attitude change. The effect size of attitude change was higher for students from G1, comparing to those of students from G2, suggesting that the combination of strategies of disability awareness – information, contact and simulation activities – and the length of intervention produce more positive attitudes. These results imply that contact-based interventions are important, but contact activities together with other disability awareness strategies have a higher impact on students’ attitudes. Furthermore, the more positive change found in the longer intervention reinforce the need of converting episodic interventions on students’ attitudes into a routine in schools’ practices. These results are promising, although the different ages of students and sample size of each group constitute a limitation.
Alves, S. & Lopes-dos-Santos, P. (2014, September 3). Effects of a Multiple-Component Disability Awareness Programme on Attitudes of Typically Developing Students Towards Their Peers with Disabilities. Paper presented at the ECER2014 – The European Conference on Educational Research, Porto, Portugal. Abstract retrieved from http://www.eera-ecer.de/ecer-programmes/conference/19/contribution/32351/ de Boer, A., Pijl, S. J., Post, W., & Minnaert, A. (2012). Peer Acceptance and Friendships of Students with Disabilities in General Education: The Role of Child, Peer, and Classroom Variables. Social Development, n/a-n/a. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9507.2012.00670.x Florian, L. (2014). What counts as evidence of inclusive education? European Journal of Special Needs Education, 29(3), 286-294. doi: 10.1080/08856257.2014.933551 Ison, N., McIntyre, S., Rothery, S., Smithers-Sheedy, H., Goldsmith, S., Parsonage, S., & Foy, L. (2010). 'Just like you': a disability awareness programme for children that enhanced knowledge, attitudes and acceptance: pilot study findings. Dev Neurorehabil, 13(5), 360-368. doi: 10.3109/17518423.2010.496764 King, G., Law, M., King, S., Rosenbaum, P., Kertoy, M. K., & Young, N. L. (2003). A Conceptual Model of factors affecting the recreation and leisure. Physical & Occupational Therapy In Pediatrics, 23(1), 63-90. McDougall, J., DeWit, D. J., King, K., Miller, L. M., & Killip, S. (2004). High School‐Aged Youths' Attitudes Toward their Peers with Disabilities: the role of school and student. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 51(3), 287-313. Rillotta, F., & Nettelbeck, T. (2007). Effects of an awareness program on attitudes of students without an intellectual disability towards persons with an intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 32(1), 19-27. doi: 10.1080/13668250701194042 Sanches-Ferreira, M. (2007). Educação Especial Educação Regular, Uma História de Separação. Porto: Afrontamento. WHO. (2001). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Geneva: WHO.
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