article: Social Participation of Students with Special Needs in Regular Primary Education in the Netherlands
This 2010 article describes a study done on the ‘social participation of students’ with impairments ‘in regular primary education in the Netherlands,’ and raises a number of relevant points for our consideration from an SRV perspective. (Note: I am not a statistician nor an academic scientific researcher, so I may be missing key points and questions. I welcome your comments, examples and further thoughts on the article, my post, and this issue.) A few points I want to highlight:
A) The authors lay out a number of characteristics which they propose as foundational to good social participation in school, including:
- ‘the presence of positive social contact/interaction between them and their classmates’
- ‘acceptance of them by their classmates’
- ‘social relationships/friendships between them and their classmates’
- ‘the students’ perception that they are accepted by their classmates.’
As a point of reference, Wolfensberger taught and wrote about personal social integration and valued social and societal participation as requiring: ‘(a) valued participation, (b) with valued people (c) in valued activities that (d) take place in valued settings’ (Wolfensberger, A brief introduction to Social Role Valorization, 3rd (rev) ed., p. 123). Wolfensberger and Thomas in the 2007 PASSING manual briefly describe integration as: ‘The valued participation by people in the culturally normative and valued activities and settings of their society, in culturally normative amounts, and with ordinary and valued people’ (p. 33). Further, in Social Role Valorization thinking and application, ‘integration and participation’ are necessarily linked with valued social roles, and thus are tied in with potentially greater access to the ‘good things of life.’ See the article by Lemay for example on ‘Social Role Valorization insights into the integration conundrum’ (Mental Retardation: February 2006, Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 1-12).
One fruitful question might be to compare these two understandings above for similarities as well as differences.
B) The article authors point out some of the wounds and negative treatment associated with social devaluation, specifically in schools, that children with impairments likely face, such as:
• ‘A comparison between the acceptance scores of students with and without special needs revealed that the former were significantly less accepted’
• ‘The analyses revealed that the average number of friends of students with special needs … was significantly lower than that of typical students’
• ‘Students with special needs initiated fewer interactions with classmates … than students without special needs’
• ‘Students with special needs received fewer interactions … than their typical classmates’
• ‘Students with special needs had, on average, fewer friends and belonged less often to a group of friends’
The above points seem quite relevant to the wound of rejection and likely of relationship loss, particularly as students get older and interpersonal/social pressures increase (e.g., in teenage years).
C) Another relevant point from the article:
‘… students with special needs had fewer interactions with their classmates but more interactions with the teacher. This latter finding can be viewed negatively because interactions with the teacher might be at the expense of interactions with classmates.’
Interaction with a good teacher is obviously helpful for learning, so one question is how to balance necessary interaction with the teacher with interaction with other students.
D) The authors also warn of (translated into SRV language) long-term heightened vulnerability and likely long-term consequences of wounding:
‘the consequences of negative social experiences in school can be far-reaching, given that they might lead to maladjustment later in life’
Maladjustment would not be the way I would likely describe it but the larger point stands; Wolfensberger lays out many of the common negative ways that wounded people react to and express their own woundedness (SRV monograph, 3rd (rev.) ed., pp. 22-24), such as alienation, anger, insecurity. (Not that reactions are always negative of course but it is an understandable response to devaluation and wounding.)
E) The authors point to the universality of personal and social devaluation: we all have the capacity to devalue; whether we are students, teachers, devalued people themselves, or whomever:
‘For instance, Mand (2007) found that a large proportion of students with behavioural disorders have a negative social position in the classroom and are not liked by peers, not only in regular classes but also in special-education settings. These students are rejected to a comparable degree in both education systems (inclusive classrooms and special schools). Hence, in special education too, there is a real chance that students experience difficulties in their social participation.’
F) A final point I want to highlight from the article:
‘In previous years, interventions tended to be aimed solely at the student with special needs (Barrett & Randall, 2004), but from an educational and pedagogical perspective interventions involving other actors seem to be more important.’
If valued social roles are key to personal social integration and valued social participation, as SRV posits, then it makes so much sense to look more broadly at all the people potentially involved, not just the students with impairments, as well as the relevant elements in the physical and social environment (2007 PASSING manual, p. 33). Roles are social, not solitary. They are carried out in particular physical and social settings. And so on. We would do well therefore to consider the range of factors explicated for example in leadership-level SRV workshops, in the SRV monograph by Wolfensberger (3rd (rev.) ed., pp. 122-124), and in PASSING workshops (e.g., including many of the ratings under the rubric 11, 12, 21, 22, etc.).
Please share your own insights, stories and examples related to this point about personal social integration and valued societal participation in schools.
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: education, PASSING, social integration, Social Role Valorization, special education, SRV, valued roles, Wolf Wolfensberger