04 SES 01 A, National Contexts of Inclusive Education
The debate around students’ eligibility for special education services remains actual due to its preponderance for determining the resources allocation and services distribution (Burke & Ruedel, 2008; Hollenweger, 2008). This is also the case of Portugal that in 2008 enacted a special education law, which prescribed a new approach for defining the target group for special education services based on the use of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, version for children and youth, ICF-CY (2007), as a common language and framework to guide the assessment and eligibility determination processes. Special education services were defined for students with: "significant limitations in terms of activity and participation in one or more areas of life, due to structural and functional permanent changes resulting in continued difficulties in communication, learning, mobility, autonomy, interpersonal relationships and social participation" (Paragraph 1 of Article 1st, Chapter I). In line with this definition, DL 3/2008 introduced the principle that documentation of functioning profiles of students – reflecting the ICF terminology and framework – should base eligibility determination.
In the beginning of its implementation the predominant idea among professionals was that the DL 3/2008 had as core aim decreasing the number of students eligible for special education supports. Aware of its impact on professionals’ daily work, the Ministry of Education commissioned a two-year research project (2009-2010) with the overall aim to evaluate the national implementation of the DL 3/2008 (Sanches-Ferreira et al., 2013). The results showed that professionals considered the new eligibility definition clearer and fairer than the previous one, determining the provision of special education supports for students whose needs really implies additional supports. Moreover, the comparison of functioning profiles from eligible and non-eligible students showed that the difference between them was in the severity assigned to functioning categories, with eligible students being defined by more severe impairments and limitations/restrictions in their profiles, specifically in Body Functions and Activities and Participation components. These results are congruent with the law emphasis on basing eligibility decision-making on severity level of impairments and limitations of Body Functions and Activities and Participation respectively. However, aspects related to Environmental Factors component were not so broadly implemented, what suggested a limited view of the environment’s impact on students’ functioning, perhaps due to the lack of assessment tools towards this component.
Six years after the ICF-CY implementation, official data from Ministry of Education reveals that - on contrary to the first years of the Decree-Law implementation - the number of eligible students for special education services has been tendentiously increasing in the last years. This data seems to mirror a transformative process on the integration of the Decree-Law implementation, showing probably a change on the way on interpreting and using the eligibility criteria. Through a diachronic analysis, this study aims to examine the functioning profiles of students considered eligible for special education services and the assessment process underlying the eligibility decision-making (who is involved and what tools are used), comparing the first two years of implementation with the current state of practices.
Burke, P. J. & Ruedel, K. (2008). Disability Classification, Categorization in Education. In L. Florian, & M. Mclaughlin (Eds.). Disability Classification in Education: issues and perspectives (68-77). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Chiu,W., Yen, C., Teng, S., Liao, H., Chang, K., Chi, W.,…Liou, T. (2013). Implementing disability evaluation and welfare services based on the framework of the international classification of functioning, disability and health: experiences in Taiwan. BMC Health Serv Res, 13(1), 416. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-13-416. Decreto-Lei n.º 3/2008 (Decree-Law 3/2008). Ministério da Educação. Diário da República – Série n.º 4 – 7 de Janeiro de 2008, pp. 154–164. Hollenweger, J. (2008). Cross-National Comparisons of Special Education Classification Systems. In L. Florian, & M. Mclaughlin (Eds.). Disability Classification in Education: issues and perspectives (11-30). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Hollenweger, J. (2011). Development of an ICF-based eligibility procedure for education in Switzerland. BMC Public Health, 11(4), 1-8. Sanches-Ferreira, M., Simeonsson, R., Silveira-Maia, M., Alves, S., Tavares, A., & Pinheiro, S. (2013a). Portugal’s special education law: implementing the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health in policy and practice. Disability & Rehabilitation, 35(10), 868-873. doi:10.3109/09638288.2012.708816 WHO. (2007). International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, version for Children and Youth (ICF-CY). Geneva: World Health Organization.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
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