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Describe and argue for social issue addressed
Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) are frequently neglected to be included in mainstream education and those who are included in a mainstream school setting often experience negative attitudes or behaviour towards them from some teachers. Some pupils with SEN who "attend mainstream" school are often still separated from their typically developing peers. This is the representation of a poor illustration of an 'inclusive school'. Sinclair Taylor (1995) studied pupils in a special unit in a mainstream school and found that pupils with SEN were in no doubt about their image in school. This obviously needs to change.
Negative approaches and attitudes towards differences, which then results in negative behaviour such as prejudice and discrimination within society, exhibits itself as a significant hindrance to education and learning. Through the practice of inclusion it can be conquered.
In a study carried out by El-Ashry (2009) the relationship and attitude of teachers towards children with a disability and their inclusion into mainstream schools was investigated. This showed a negative attitude from the teachers towards these children. However, teachers that reported a relationship with one of the children with a disability spoke more favourably of that child's inclusion along with the inclusion of others. This could therefore be implemented in schools and reversed to find out the attitudes of children with SEN towards their teachers and in addition, the teachers' attitude towards them. It could give insight into the possibility of the child with SEN picking up on the teachers' attitude towards them and their thoughts on inclusion, whether it is negative or positive.
Some teachers claimed that they were worried that if children with SEN were incorporated into a classroom or school with typically developing children, that the typically developing children would be disrupted. However research by Kalmabouka et al (2007) found there to be no unfavourable effects for the first initial students when SEN children were included in the school.
For inclusion to be successful it's suggested to depend largely on the attitudes and readiness of the teachers to welcome in addition to involving students with SEN in a way that enable the students to feel accepted. This can be seen from work carried out by Avramidis & Norwich, 2002 (as well as Forlin, 2001; Sharma, Forlin, Loreman & Earle, 2006). Studies have demonstrated that teachers with a positive attitude toward inclusion employ instructional strategies that aim towards the benefit of every student in the classroom (Bender, Vail & Scott, 1995; Brophy & Good, 1991), and to also yield an encouraging influence on the attitudes of the typically developing peers towards their fellow students with SEN ( Norwicki & Sandieson, 2002).
The proposed intervention aims to significantly reduce the negative attitudes and behaviours if not eliminate them. If teachers have a more positive attitude towards children in their class who have SEN it makes inclusion more plausible and effective. The child should be at the heart of inclusion and when they feel included and welcome this will ultimately benefit their education and the social experience that accompanies it.
The capability approach (Nussbaum & Sen 1993 cited by Reindal 2010) provides an understanding of "difference" that is individual and relational. Reindal (2009) suggested that by adapting the view of difference into a specific variable to be measured provides the opportunity to consider any supplementary needs without delving into individual models, which in turn makes it easier to recognize unfair or unjust practices. This approach also allows a view of inclusion as an ethical concept whereby the purpose is to adapt for each pupil as it puts the pupil at the centre of the educational enterprise. However, it does not imply a "wholly agent-relative education, because the issue of 'reason to value' is consistent with an account of human flourishing and the exercise of freedom"-(Reindal 2010.) It is for that reason that Hinchliffe (2007) views the capability approach as valid for providing a theoretical framework in favour of inclusion without impairing core educational values.
Teachers would need to have valid training and sufficient resources to achieve successful inclusion within their school. If a teacher believes inclusion can be achieved without too much "hassle" it may well be that their attitudes towards it occurring in their own classroom, and towards the individual child, may grow to be positive (if they were not already so). In a study carried out by Leatherman and Niemeyer (2005) they established that when teachers encouraged interactions among children with and without SEN, or other disabilities, this is turn helps to promote and maintain a positive environment for inclusion. Since the teachers assisted the children's participation in the same activities while additionally encouraging the development of relations among the children, they succeeded in creating an accepting environment in the classroom. Therefore just as teachers would need to be prepared, the already existing students of the classroom must also be prepared. Several studies examined the effect of programs preparing typically developing pupils for the inclusion of pupils with autism. Lord and Hopkins (1986) taught typically developing pupils that they could interact with pupils with autism and noted that the interactions with these pupils who had undergone preparation and practice were of higher quality (eye contact, response etc.) than the interactions with pupils who received no preparation. Odom and Strain (1984) found that pupils who had undergone appropriate preparation influenced the social ability and functioning of the children with autism in a positive manner.
There would need to be funding for the intervention to work, therefore applying to the correct bodies from Government and Education and Library Board would be carried out in advance of the intervention.
Materials; A Questionnaire measuring the attitudes towards children with SEN and their inclusion in mainstream schools.
An Interaction Scale used to rate the level of interaction between the participant, and the other groups of participants, from 1-5. 1 being "little or no interaction", 5 being "Easy and normal interaction"
Principles of various schools surrounding Belfast would be contacted and asked to encourage or nominate willing participant teachers that meet the criteria( successful N.I checks etc) to take part. Out of the bank of participants, 40 would be chosen randomly and split into groups A, B or C.
The participants would be 20 teachers; Group A- 10 of those who teach/have taught children with SEN in a mainstream school setting, Group B- 10 of who haven't. These would be the participants who would be taking part in the entire intervention.
Group C- this will be the control group there would be 20 teachers, 10 who teach/taught those with SEN and 10 who haven't; however these participants wouldn't be taking part in the intervention but would fill out the questionnaires at the same times as the other participants.
The other participants include the principals of the chosen mainstream schools that practice inclusion, the teachers of the school (teachers of the SEN children and selection of normal teachers,) the children with SEN, their peers and the parents of both. However these participants are not measured.
Each participant in Group A would individually fill out an annoynumus questionnaire to capture their feelings towards inclusion in the privacy of their own home and leave it with a researcher in the blank envelope provided. They would then, again individually, attend a mainstream school which demonstrates and practices the inclusion of children with SEN. On the first day, the participant would watch the child in the classroom environment and places where the social functioning of the child can be observed closely. At the end of the school day, after a brief break, the participant would then get to meet the principle, the children with SEN in the school and their parents, a random selection of their typically developing peers and their parents. They can ask questions and interact freely whilst a researcher would observe and rate them on a scale of interaction. (See materials)
This would occur for each participant from groups A and B, and after a week from the last participant's observation, there would then be a final awareness day. This could be held in various mainstream school settings on a non school day. An educational psychologist among other educational authorities would give the talk to parents, teachers, siblings etc and give a brief outline on what autism is etc and would also extend to any Special educational need. Finally, every participant in groups A, B and C would fill in a questionnaire used to find out the same information as the initial one, yet worded differently. The results would then be analysed.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention the questionnaires will be scrupulously examined along with the Interaction scores of each participant. Some of the questions on the final questionnaire will actually ask the participant to evaluate the experience and also rate if it affected a change in their attitude. The data will have a valid place due to the anonymity of them and will stay in their groups so as not to be confused or mixed up, but will be undoubtedly anonymous to give a genuine response. The desired outcome would be to observe an increase in the positive attitudes towards the children with SEN and their inclusion into mainstream school. The process whereby the participant actually observes the children with SEN can be repeated as many times as funding, time and the willingness of all involved will permit. This in turn can enable after future research and planning, the possibility for more children to be in mainstream schools with the teachers being happy about them being there. The current intervention would be aimed at primary schools at first and following further investigations could be applied to secondary schools.
The interest of the child with SEN would best be fulfilled if the teacher learns to form a relationship with the child, or any child with SEN, as research has shown the child's ability to pick up on negative attitudes.