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Autism, Neurodiversity, and Inclusive Education  

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.

Article

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.

Article

Evidence-Based Practices for Teaching Learners with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders  

Jessica Whitley

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.

Article

Interdisciplinary Professional Partnerships  

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.

Article

Reforming Approaches to Persistent Bullying in Schools  

Deborah M. Green, Barbara A. Spears, and Deborah A. Price

Bullying remains a global issue, and persistent bullying among students in schools has become of increasing interest and concern. Extensive research has provided insights into the developmental trajectories of those who bully; however, less is understood about why they either continue to engage in bullying behavior or desist over time. Persistent bullies, those who seem to continue or increase their bullying behaviors over time, not only negatively impact individuals and communities both during their schooling and long after graduation but also experience negative life outcomes as a result of their behavior. It is therefore important to understand what contributes to, supports, or motivates their ongoing bullying behavior: especially when interventions and preventative approaches employed by schools to reduce bullying, have to date, been found not to be universally successful. This is particularly important, as interventions and approaches to reduce bullying behavior, have until the early 21st century been largely measured against and are relevant to Olweus’s traditional bullying definition, which references power imbalances, repetition, and intent to harm and rests largely within the developmental psychology domain. In the early 21st century, debates to contemporize the definition, however, involve contributions from other paradigms designed to bring a more holistic, nuanced understanding of the whole socio-educational context of bullying. This may eventually bring different insights to the issue of persistent bullying, as it would include, for example, an understanding of the broader notions of societal power, individual agency, privilege, and bias-based bullying, potentially resulting in better preventative and intervention outcomes to address bullying more generally, and persistent bullying specifically. Whereas school reform often refers to the process of making changes in educational policy or practice, usually in response to concerns about student academic achievement, behavioral issues such as bullying, which impact wellbeing, engagement, and, ultimately, achievement, also require similar “reforms” to policy and practice. Significantly, such reforms demand evidence to ensure there are no unintended or iatrogenic consequences, such as, for example, the escalation or continuation of bullying behaviors. Reforming approaches to understanding, preventing, and effectively intervening with those who persist in bullying others, a unique subset who seem resistant or immune to bullying prevention and intervention approaches used in the early 21st century, are therefore necessary and timely given the extant knowledge about bullying and victimization derived from the past 30-plus years of research. Knowing more about those who appear immune to intervention and prevention approaches used in the early 21st century, their lived experiences, the contexts that may serve to support and maintain their behaviors, and the community’s view of them, is imperative if approaches are to be reformed in response which subsequently bring about change in schools to reduce bullying. Reforming approaches at the whole-school level are considered, which simultaneously employ a multi-tiered system of behavioral support within the school setting for all students: where specific supports are targeted and enacted for those who persist in bullying, alongside strategies for those victimized, in a climate where all bullying is universally rejected. This approach sits alongside the notion of a whole education approach recommended by the UNESCO scientific committee on school violence. This recognizes that a wider community approach is needed, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of the school, the community, and the technological, educational, and societal systems.