04 SES 06 A, Children and Young People's Perpectives on Inclusive Education
This paper considers challenges daily aroused in schools in their efforts to put into practice the principles of inclusive education, in particularly with regard to attitudes of typically developing students towards their peers with disabilities. Based on contact theories (Slininger, Sherrill, & Jankowski, 2007; Zanjonc, 2011) it was expected that the inclusion of students with disabilities into regular schools would guarantee itself positive attitudes of typically developing peers resulting from increased interaction opportunities. However, research demonstrated that their presence in inclusive settings does not ensure spontaneous interactions neither positive attitudes of typically developing peers (Diamond & Tu, 2009; Rillotta & Nettelbeck, 2007). In this sense, research findings have been describing negative attitudes as a critical constraint for the social acceptance and academic development of children with disabilities included in regular schools and, therefore, for meeting ethical issues and principles of inclusive education (Koster, Pijl, Nakken, & Van Houten, 2010; WHO & World Bank, 2011).The underlying assumption is that the lack of knowledge about disability of typically developing peers can adversely affect their attitudes towards children with disabilities. Therefore, equity in access to education does not necessary means the full participation and social acceptance of students with disabilities (McDougall, DeWit, King, Miller, & Killip, 2004).
Previous research has already demonstrated that disability awareness programs implemented with students can be a powerful strategy to build and sustain the inclusive education philosophy through the enhancement of students’ knowledge and social acceptance of their peers with disabilities (Lindsay & Edwards, 2013). However, two fundamental questions might be posed to their implementation.
Firstly, who will be responsible for its delivery to students? Having a critical role, not only in providing knowledge and facilitating learning, but also in providing a model for guiding the moral development of their students (Forlin, 2008), teachers are the ones in the best position to deliver disability awareness instruction. However, to do that, they need to feel comfortable and competent about special education and inclusion, what brings up the debate around the attention initial teachers’ education places in these themes. For example, in Portugal it’s still common in some universities to graduate in teaching without having any theoretical and practical training in inclusive education (Sanches-Ferreira & Micaelo, 2010).
Secondly, what are the issues associated with their implementation? Disability awareness programs must be seen as an approach for preparing all students to adopt ethical and moral principles of valuing individual differences, which per se goes beyond the mere acquisition of propositional knowledge on disabilities. Hence, the implementation of such programs must be followed by the measurement of the effects they produce on typically developing students (e.g., attitudes) but, most importantly on students with disabilities (e.g., participation in school activities).
This paper examines the importance of disability awareness programs, specifically in regard to: the relevance of their implementation (based on the Portugal’s reality); the procedural and structural issues concerning their implementation (what techniques, contents and effects’ evaluation measures should embody disability awareness programs); the opinion of regular teachers about infusing disability awareness instruction in schools’ daily routines.
Diamond, K., & Tu, H. (2009). Relations between classroom context, physical disability and preschool children's inclusion decisions. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30(2), 75-81. Forlin, C. (2008). Education reform for inclusion in the Asia-Pacific Region: What about Teacher Education? In Forlin, C. and Lian, Ming-Gon John (eds.), Reform, Inclusion and Teacher Education: Towards a new era of special education in the Asia-Pacific region. London: Routledge. Koster, M., Pijl, S. J., Nakken, H., & Van Houten, E. (2010). Social participation of students with special needs in regular primary education in the Netherlands. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 57(1), 59–75. Lindsay, S., & Edwards, A. (2013). A systematic review of disability awareness interventions for children and youth. Disabil Rehabil, 35(8), 623-646 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. & Micaelo, M. (2010). Teacher Education For Inclusion Country Report Portugal. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Special Needs and Incusion. Slininger, D., Sherrill, C., & Jankowski, C. M. (2000). Children’s attitudes toward peers with severe disabilities: Revisiting contact theory. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 17, 176-196. Zajonc, R. B. (2001). Mere Exposure Effect: a gateway to the subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(6), 224-228. WHO & World Bank. (2011). World Report on Disability. Geneva: WHO.
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