Sara M. Acevedo and Emily A. Nusbaum
A brief history of the emergence of the inclusive schools movement demonstrates its reliance on the pathologizing paradigms that are both the foundations and frameworks of traditional special education. Throughout this recent history, the utilization of a positivist approach to research and practice for autistic students, both those who are segregated and those who have access to mainstream classrooms, has maintained a person-fixing ideology. Instead, a neurodiversity framework adopts an integrative approach, drawing on the psychosocial, cultural, and political elements that effectively disrupt the systematic categorization of alternative neurological and cognitive embodiment(s) and expressions as a host of threatening “disorders” that must be dealt with by cure, training, masking, and/or behavioral interventions to be implemented in the classroom. Centering the personal, lived experiences and perspectives of autistic and otherwise neurodivergent activists and scholars affiliated with the U.S. neurodiversity movement offers an emancipatory lens for representing and embodying neurological differences beyond traditional special education’s deficit-based discourses and practices. This emphasis on political advocacy and cultural self-authorship effectively challenges unexamined, universalizing assumptions about whose bodyminds are “educable” and under what auspices “educability” is conceptualized and written into special-education curricula.
Educational psychology in Africa has a rich and colorful history. In sub-Saharan Africa educational psychology, as both a profession and a scientific field, is particularly vibrant. The emergence of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa shows how the science and the profession has pirouetted in ways that could support mental health and learning in African contexts in innovative ways. While emanating within Western cultures, educational psychology has been adapted and, perhaps, been deeply enriched in the African context. After the initial establishment of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa, three broad eras of theoretical development are evident: (a) the era of ecosystems and community, (b) the era of inclusion, and (c) the era of strength-based and positive approaches. During the era of ecosystems and community, emergent theories challenged the dominance of the individualist paradigms in educational psychology and provided broadened conceptualizations of the factors that impact mental health and effective learning. The role of communities was also given prominence. During the era of inclusion, the medical model was challenged as the primary foundation for legitimizing educational psychological assessments and interventions. Educational psychologists moved toward rights-based approaches that championed the rights of vulnerable populations and the creation of inclusive learning environments. The inclusion of children with disabilities influenced policy development in multiple sub-Saharan countries and expanded the dialogues on how best to support learning for all children. During the era of strength-based and positive approaches, theoretical and pragmatic approaches that forefront strengths, capacities, and possibilities started to develop. This era signified yet another departure from previous hegemonic paradigms in that educational psychology moved beyond the individual level, toward more systemic approaches, but then also used approaches that focused more on strengths and the mobilization of resources within these systems to address challenges and to optimize educational psychological support. These eras in the development of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa created optimal opportunities to respond to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of SDGs, educational psychology responds primarily to Global Goal 3 (health and well-being) and Global Goal 4 (quality education). At the same time it supports the Global Goals of no poverty (1), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8), reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities and communities (11), and building partnerships for the goals (17).
Effective Practices for Collaborating With Families and Caregivers of Children and Young Adults With Disabilities
Shridevi Rao, Nadya Pancsofar, and Sarah Monaco
A rich literature on family-professional collaboration with families and caregivers of children and youth with disabilities has developed in the United States. This literature identifies key barriers that impede family-professional relationships including deficit-based perceptions of families and children with disabilities, narrow definitions of “family” that limit the participation of some members such as fathers or grandparents, and historical biases that constrain the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families. Principles for building collaborative relationships with families include honoring the strengths of the family, presuming competence in the child and the family, valuing broad definitions of “family,” and understanding the ecology of family routines and rituals. Practices that help facilitate family-professional relationships are building reciprocal partnerships with various caregivers in the family including fathers as well as extended family members, adopting a posture of cultural reciprocity, using a variety of modes of communication with families, and involving families in all aspects of the special education process such as assessment, planning, prioritizing of skills, and identification of interventions. Pivotal moments in the family’s journey through their child’s schooling, including early intervention and transition to post-school environments, provide opportunities to build and strengthen family-professional relationships. Each of these moments has the potential to involve families in a variety of processes including assessment, planning, and articulating the goals and vision for their child/youth. A focus on strengths, collaborative partnerships, and family agency and voice is at the core of strong family-professional relationships.
Students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) comprise a diverse group in terms of academic, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and needs. Identification and diagnostic criteria and terminologies vary widely across and within many countries and school systems, resulting in a complex research base. Estimates of prevalence range from 4 to 15% of students meeting criteria for an emotional and/or behavioral disorder or difficulty. Approaches to teaching learners with E/BD have shifted since the turn of the 21st century from an individual, deficit-focused perspective to a more ecological framework where the environments interacting dynamically with the learner are considered. Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) where the needs of most students can be met through universal preventative and whole-class approaches. Students who do not find success at the first level of supports receive increasingly specialized services including intensive, wraparound services that involve partners beyond school walls. MTSS are common across North America and beyond and are typically focused on externalizing behaviors; positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is the most prevalent multi-tiered system currently being implemented. Since the mid-2000s, efforts have been made to focus on academic as well as behavioral goals for students, often through the inclusion of response-to-intervention approaches. Comprehensive strategies that combine academic and behavioral support while drawing on learner strengths and relationship-building are successfully being adopted in elementary and secondary settings. Approaches include social and emotional learning, mindfulness, peer-assisted learning, and a range of classroom-based instructional and assessment practices that support the academic, social, and emotional development of students with E/BD.
Daniel P. Hallahan, Paige C. Pullen, James M. Kauffman, and Jeanmarie Badar
Exceptional learners is the term used in the United States to refer to students with disabilities (as well as those who are gifted and talented). The majority of students with disabilities have cognitive and/or behavioral disabilities, that is, specific learning disability (SLD), intellectual disability (ID), emotional disturbance, (ED), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The remaining have primarily sensory and/or physical disabilities (e.g., blindness, deafness, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy).
Many of the key research and policy issues pertaining to exceptional learners involve their definitions and identification. For example, prior to SLD being formally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in the 1970s, its prevalence was estimated at approximately 2% to 3% of the school-age population. However, the prevalence of students identified for special education as SLD grew rapidly until by 1999 it reached 5.68% for ages 6 to 17 years. Since then, the numbers identified as SLD has declined slowly but steadily. One probable explanation for the decrease is that response to intervention has largely replaced IQ-achievement as the method of choice for identifying SLD.
The term intellectual disability has largely replaced the classification of mental retardation. This change originated in the early 2000s because of the unfortunate growing popularity of using retard as a pejorative. Although ID used to be determined by a low IQ-test score, one must also have low adaptive behavior (such as daily living skills) to be diagnosed as ID. That is the likely reason why the prevalence of students with ID at under 1% is well below the estimated prevalence of 2.27% based solely on IQ scores two standard deviations (i.e., 70) below the norm of 100.
There are two behavioral dimensions of ED: externalizing (including conduct disorder) and internalizing (anxiety and withdrawal) behaviors. Research evidence indicates that students with ED are underserved in public schools.
Researchers have now confirmed ADHD as a bona fide neurologically based disability. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes three types of ADHD: (a) ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type; (b) ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type; and (c) ADHD, Combined Type.
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes two types of ASD: social communication impairment and repetitive/restricted behaviors. The prevalence of ASD diagnosis has increased dramatically. Researchers point to three probable reasons for this increase: a greater awareness of ASD by the public and professionals; a more liberal set of criteria for diagnosing ASD, especially as it pertains to those who are higher functioning; and “diagnostic substitution”—persons being identified as having ASD who previously would have been diagnosed as mentally retarded or intellectually disabled.
Instruction for exceptional children, referred to as “special education,” differs from what most (typical or average) children require. Research indicates that effective instruction for students with disabilities is individualized, explicit, systematic, and intensive. It differs with respect to size of group taught and amount of corrective feedback and reinforcement used. Also, from the student’s viewpoint, it is more predictable. In addition, each of these elements is on a continuum.
Poi Kee Low
With the growing diversity of professions working in schools, interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration are growing quickly the world over. Apart from traditional teaching and learning concerns, awareness of children and youth mental health issues and socio-emotional wellbeing, grew readily since the 2000s. Rising in tandem with this trend is the number of psychologists, social workers, and counselors joining educators to support children and young persons in schools. Challenges such as misconception of roles, differing perceptions as well as cross-disciplinary misunderstanding threaten to prevent concerned professionals in working collaborative to help children and young persons in need. Fortunately, this aspect of interdisciplinary partnership in schools gains the much-needed attention in research from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and the Americas. Models and frameworks suggesting best practices for interdisciplinary collaboration emerged in school psychology, counseling and social work literature. Also growing in tandem is research in methods of measurement and evaluation of such collaboration as well as studies on pre-service professional training on interdisciplinary collaborative skills in the related disciplines.
The education of children and young people with disabilities and the appropriate form this should take is an issue with which countries across the world are grappling. This challenge has not been assisted by the diverse interpretations of “inclusion” within and between States. The international community, in the form of the United Nations (UN), its associated treaty bodies, and its related agencies have taken on an increasingly critical role in working with countries to develop some kind of global consensus on how inclusion should be defined, its core features, and what it should look like in practice. The conclusions of discussions on these issues have emerged in the form of declarations, treaties, general comments, and guidelines, which countries across the world are expected to adhere to, to varying extents. Together, these constitute a set of international policies and benchmarks on inclusion in an educational context, informing and shaping contemporary national policy and practice. At its core is the underlying principle that children and young people with disabilities have a fundamental right to education without discrimination. Examination of international discourse on inclusion indicates that its meaning, form, and content has become more refined, with increasing emphasis being placed on the quality of inclusive practice as opposed to merely questioning its merits.
Sew Kim Low and Jin Kuan Kok
There is a global push for a comprehensive school mental health system to meet the mental health needs of children and youths in school. To respond effectively to these needs, parents, schools, and communities must recognize the value of collaborating as partners. The term parent-school-community partnership refers to the genuine collaboration among families, schools, communities, individuals, organizations, businesses, and government and nongovernment agencies to assist students’ emotional, social, physical, intellectual, and psychological development. To realize the goals of effective partnership in promoting school mental health of children and youths, ongoing assessment of the schools’ needs, and the available resources of local, state, and national communities, agencies, and organizations is necessary for the provision of effective partnership interventions. In partnership, parents, educators, and community members work together and share responsibilities for the development of the “whole child.” A multitier system of partnership support could be beneficial in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of school mental health interventions and evidence-based programs.
Brian A. Gerrard and Gertina J. van Schalkwyk
School-based family counseling (SBFC) is an integrative systems approach to helping children succeed academically and personally through mental health interventions that link family and school. SBFC may be practiced by any of the mental health approaches and is best viewed as a supporting approach to traditional mental health disciplines. An important precursor to SBFC was the guidance clinics attached to schools that were developed by the psychiatrist Alfred Adler in Vienna in the 1920s. A core assumption in SBFC is that the two most important institutions in the life of a young child are the family and the school and that an effective way to help children is by mobilizing both family and school resources. SBFC has eight strengths: school and family focus, systems orientation, educational focus, parent partnership, multicultural sensitivity, child advocacy, promotion of school transformation, and interdisciplinary focus. Despite its early origins, SBFC remains a new approach that challenges traditional mental health disciplines that focus on either school or family, but not both. There is moderate evidence-based support (EBS) for the effectiveness of SBFC, but further research is needed on different approaches to SBFC.
Laura Sokal and Jennifer Katz
Inclusive classrooms provide new opportunities for group membership and creation of effective learning environments. In order to facilitate the success of inclusion as an approach and philosophy, it is important that all class members as well as their teachers develop the skills to understand one another, and to communicate and work together effectively. Social emotional learning (SEL) is aimed at developing these skills and is generally defined to involve processes by which individuals learn to understand and moderate their own feelings, understand the feelings of others, communicate, resolve conflicts effectively, respect others, and develop healthy relationships. These skills are important to both children with disabilities and to those without, in terms of overall social development, perceptions of belonging, and promotion of overall mental wellness, as well as mitigation of the development of mental illness. Research suggests that SEL programming has the potential to effectively enhance children’s academic, social, and relational outcomes. Moreover, teachers who teach SEL in their classrooms have also demonstrated positive outcomes. Despite these encouraging findings, implementation of SEL has been hampered by some limitations, including the lack of a consistent definition—a limitation that in turn affects research findings; lack of teacher education in SEL, which erodes confidence in the fidelity of implementation; and concerns that current SEL programs are not sensitive to cultural differences in communities. Together, the strengths and limitations of SEL illuminate several policy implications regarding the most advantageous ways for SEL to contribute to the success of inclusion in classrooms and schools.
Michael Chia and Koh Koon Teck
The Second World-Wide Survey of Physical Education in schools, published under the auspices of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, identifies large gaps between the promise of positive outcomes of physical education and actual outcomes. The mismatch between the policy and practice of physical education stems from deep-seated disagreements about what the goals of physical education should be; the multifaceted nature of the subject; and a lack of competence, confidence, and accountability among the teachers who are responsible for teaching physical education in schools, among other things. According to the World Health Organization, the physical and holistic health of young people and adults is threatened by increases in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers—in part due to increased sedentary modern lifestyles and insufficient exercise. Physical education has the potential to ameliorate the negative impact of sedentary lifestyles and exercise insufficiency. Teacher-education programs for physical education the world over advertise that teachers of the subject help young people acquire a love for physical activity and the skills to practice and enjoy sports; they also teach life skills, including teamwork, sportsmanship, problem-solving, and creativity, and help students develop the habits of a healthy lifestyle. How programs prepare physical-education teachers to deliver on these promises varies considerably. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Singapore has one of the best-performing teacher-education systems in the world. It is run by the National Institute of Education in Singapore. The tight coupling of theory and practice and the tripartite relationship between the policymakers at the Ministry of Education; the National Institute of Education, where teacher training occurs; and the schools, where physical education is experienced, are the key determinants of a quality physical-education experience among children and adolescents in Singapore.
Carmel Hobbs, Dane Paulsen, and Jeff Thomas
Complex trauma experienced in childhood has detrimental impacts on the brain, learning and socio-moral development, the effects of which can last long into adulthood. A growing body of research emphasizes how all school teachers, regardless of the educational context, should expect to have students in their classroom who are affected by complex trauma. Teachers therefore require an understanding of how trauma affects their students, and a skillset that allows them to support and respond effectively to these students. However, multiple studies have found that teachers feel that they have not received sufficient training, and subsequently feel inadequately equipped to meet the needs of trauma-affected students in their classrooms. Although many Initial Teacher Education programs incorporate some curriculum on child maltreatment, this is typically focused on identifying and reporting child abuse, as opposed to how sustained and severe maltreatment can lead to complex trauma, which affects learning, and social development in students. Increasing understanding of how trauma affects the brain, and the implications this has for young people in school has continued to grow since the 1990s. This has contributed to a growing trend of multidisciplinary teams combining education and wellbeing models in schools to cater to the most vulnerable students in their respective communities.
Students who have experienced trauma may appear to be deliberately misbehaving in the classroom, disengaged or disinterested in learning, and can struggle to develop skills that strengthen positive relationships with school staff and other students. Unsurprisingly, exposure to trauma impacts a young person’s academic performance, attendance, and likelihood of completion. It is clear that schools are important settings where the effects of trauma have a substantial impact on the lives of students, particularly when the effects of trauma are misunderstood. Nevertheless, schools have the potential to be one of the most powerful places for buffering the negative impacts of complex childhood trauma through their capacity to provide opportunities for all students to experience positive, trusting relationships, be cared for, and experience predictability, consistency and safety.
A trauma-informed approach in school settings involves understanding how trauma affects students and provides a framework for responding to students rather than blaming them for their behavior. Trauma-informed practice is not an intervention, and it does not have an end point. It is a process, and a holistic way of working that involves understanding and attending to the specific needs of individuals with trauma-affected childhoods. Central to all trauma-informed approaches is the importance of strong, trusting, consistent and predictable relationships between an adult and a trauma-affected child. It is within this space that opportunities to repair dysregulated stress responses, and disruptive attachment styles can take place.
Josep Gustems-Carnicer and Caterina Calderon
Modern society has achieved levels of well-being linked to economic prosperity, better and more extended education, and greater life expectancy. For individuals, improvements in well-being impact positively on friendships and other social relationships, marriage, and work satisfaction.
There is no doubt that the future of society depends in great measure on the teachers who work with future citizens. Unfortunately, too many teachers in developed countries suffer from chronic, work-related stress, which negatively affects their health, life satisfaction, vocation, and professional stability in the education system. Ensuring the well-being of teachers is essential to ensure that future generations of citizens receive the best help in their intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal growth.
For teachers, certain personality traits can mitigate the effects of stress. Mindfulness and coping strategies can also help to minimize the negative effects of stress, but the most effective way to help student teachers deal with stress is to include specific programs throughout teacher education courses in universities.
Starting university is traditionally considered to be a period characterized by many changes that can cause stress among students, such as separation from one’s family, entering the job market, negotiating the student workload, changing address, and attempting to make new friendships. In teacher education, universities are in a position both to improve their students’ lives and to give them information about how to negotiate future professional difficulties. Teacher education programs must maintain constant interest in enhancing the academic performance of the students, and their affective conditions must enrich the exercise and development of students’ virtues and strengths, at the same time as students are offered tools for their working future.
The actions promoted to help students develop these virtues and strengths should be accompanied by an effective tutorial action plan, a psychological health service for students, activities to help students acquire self-awareness of character strengths, a mentoring plan, tutoring among students, teamwork, programs to develop coping strategies, the organization of educational material, discipline, full class control, programs to optimize students’ time management, guidance on negotiating the increasing levels of bureaucracy in education, creative exercises to compensate for the lack of resources, collective exercise (sports), artistic activities, programs of mindfulness, religious practice, and volunteer work. Education students need to have a university experience that provides them with numerous opportunities to develop values, competences, attitudes, knowledge, beliefs, an identity, and coping strategies that will help them to be better professionals, more conscientious citizens, and happier individuals.