04 SES 08 B, Social Participation
Over the last decades, educational policies concerning the education of students with special educational needs, i.e., “students with various (combinations of) impairments and/or difficulties in participating in education (Pijl, Frostad, & Flem, 2008, p. 389)”, have moved from a segregation paradigm through integration to a point where inclusion is central to the contemporary discourse (e.g., UNESCO, 2005). This shift towards ‘inclusive education’ has been confirmed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability (2006). As stated in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability of 2006, inclusive education aims to provide effective individualized support measures in environments ‘that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion.’.
As stated in the definition, much value is being placed on the maximization of the social development of students with SEN. Also in the literature, authors describe social participation of students with SEN as a key indicator of successful inclusion of these students (Symes & Humphrey, 2011). Within the literature, social participation is used as an umbrella term covering four key themes: (1) the presence of positive social contact/interaction between these children and their classmates; (2) acceptance of them by their classmates; (3) social relationships/friendships between them and their classmates and (4) the pupils’ perception they are accepted by their classmates (Bossaert et al., 2011; Koster et al., 2009). Indeed, the importance of these concepts cannot be underestimated. Different aspects of the social participation of typically developing (pre)adolescents, i.e., peer acceptance, friendships and group membership, have been related to outcomes such as prosocial behavior, emotional well-being, low levels of emotional distress and, indirectly, to academic achievement (e.g., Berndt & Keefe, 1996, Wentzel & Caldwell, 1997). Furthermore, increasing externalizing problems, drops in school performance, and maladjustment later in life have been recognized as some of the short- and long-term effects of negative social experiences in school (e.g., Ollendick, Weist, Borden, & Greene, 1992).
This symposium addresses several aspects regarding the social participation of students with SEN in mainstream schools in three different countries, i.e., Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. The paper presented by Goele Bossaert focuses on friendship quality of students with ASD and students with motor and/or sensory disabilities at the start of mainstream secondary school in Belgium. The second paper, presented by Goele Bossaert, presents a cross-national study on the social participation of students with SEN in different education systems in Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium. The third paper, presented by Sip Jan Pijl, will consider the link between peer acceptance of students with SEN and the attitudes of their classmates in primary mainstream schools in the Netherlands. The fourth paper, presented by Christian Wendelborg, will focus on the social participation of students with SEN throughout their school career in Norway.
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