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Experiences and perspectives on the social dimension of inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in an Irish primary school

Butler, Martine (2015) Experiences and perspectives on the social dimension of inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in an Irish primary school. Doctor of Education thesis, Dublin City University.

This study is conducted against the backdrop o f national and international policies and legislation which promotes the inclusion of pupils with mild general learning disabilities (MGLD) in mainstream schools. Employing a predominantly qualitative case study approach, it provides an in depth exploration of the social participation o f three children with MGLD attending a mainstream class in a mainstream school. An important focus o f this study is the perspective and experience of the child, in particular the three target children who transferred from a special class for pupils with MGLD three years previously. Their experience is further illuminated by the insights of other relevant stakeholders, namely their teachers, parents, special needs assistants and peers. Data collection comprised focus group and individual semi-structured interviews, observations, sociometry, field notes, draw and write investigation, and analysis of school documentation. Findings suggest that the three target pupils feel socially included in school life. Children, both with and without special educational needs (SEN) feel included when they are involved in playing games and everyday activities with their peers. Pro-social characteristics, such as those gained through participation in sport and music play an important role in facilitating social participation and access to peer networks for pupils. Findings reveal that social functioning is a critical area of development for pupils with MGLD; with appropriate intervention practices central to its development. Socially responsive and competent typically developing peers (TDPs) can facilitate the participation o f pupils with MGLD in the everyday life o f the school. However, in order to achieve this, TDPs require targeted intervention to develop relevant skills. Findings also demonstrate that greater focus on the development o f pupil knowledge and experience o f disability is pertinent in relation to peer acceptance o f children with SEN. Pupils require developmentally appropriate practice with regard to the conceptualisation o f disability. Findings indicate that teachers may have idealistic expectations o f TDPs in terms of requiring them to become socially responsive without receiving explicit support and development. Due recognition, consideration and intervention regarding this crucial aspect of inclusive education is warranted. It is possible that inclusive schools (in the context of ever-reducing resource supports) may overstretch their resources, due to a high intake o f pupils with SEN. The special class for pupils with MGLD is an important resource and should not be overlooked in terms o f the continuum o f provision. Meaningful consultation with pupils regarding their education is an important goal for educators to pursue. Since children’s social experiences are affected by a wide variety of factors, there is a need for a coherent policy to guide practice at school level. Interventions incorporating parental support and involving peer support are important, specifically as parental attitudes impact on children’s attitudes.
Item Type:Thesis (Doctor of Education)
Date of Award:November 2015
Supervisor(s):Logan, Anna and Hayes, Geraldine
Subjects:Social Sciences > Education
Social Sciences > Sociology
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Institute of Education
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:22485
Deposited On:09 Aug 2018 09:29 by Thomas Murtagh . Last Modified 09 Aug 2018 09:29

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