Listen to the Article

00:00

Key Takeaway
Social inclusion is a central aspect of feeling like one belongs within a community. Through an ecological approach to gathering information, it may be possible to develop a deeper understanding of an individual’s lived experience, allowing for the creation of more personalized interventions.
https://marioframework.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/hnet.com-image-5-1.pngAn ecological approach to measuring social inclusion
Erin Madonna

Ecological Model for Inclusion

Meys, Hermans, and Maes (2021) pursued this study in an effort to both test whether an ecological model could be utilized to better articulate the complexity of social relations and social inclusion for individuals with disabilities and to suggest a method for informing interventions better tailored to match the experienced reality of the individual. “Persons with a disability express a deep desire for social relations, either in terms of making friends, having a romantic relationship or being socially included.”1

The authors utilized the ecological model to map social inclusion of adults with disabilities in order to better understand the multitude of factors impacting the individual’s interpersonal relationships and community participation. Five levels were included in the ecological mapping: the individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and socio-political. Inclusion of each level allowed for a more robust understanding of the enabling or disabling qualities of each in an individual’s life. 

Also considered was the source of information as individual perceptions of belonging and connectedness can influence any measure of social inclusion. For the purposes of this study, the authors chose to collect data from the individual as well as their network members (family, community members, professionals) in the hopes that the variety of perspectives could provide a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of social inclusion. The authors invited the individuals with disabilities to identify two network members who played a significant role in their lives. An example of how the different voices articulate the experience uniquely can be found in responses to individual level questions around disabling factors. “Every perspective emphasized something else: professionals mentioned more characteristics of socio-emotional functioning, network members more social/interaction skills and persons with a disability gave more insight into their emotional wellbeing (pg 5).”

An additional factor which may have influenced the perceived level of loneliness experienced by the individuals with disabilities is that the study included participants living in independent supported living settings. The potential for social isolation may vary based on the presence of community or the level of segregation inherent to the individual’s living situation.

Interventions Must Be Dynamic

Ultimately, this study informs our understanding of the complexity of social inclusion and suggests that any interventions to improve the quality of social inclusion for individuals must take into account the dynamic interplay of factors from all five levels of the ecological map. The benefits of including different perspectives can be seen in how they were highly complementary while also providing unique information about the enabling and disabling factors that influence social inclusion. “The application of the model functions as a snapshot of a dynamic reality of social inclusion more than as a static model that can be completed at one time point for an individual (pg 8).”

Limitations

Meys, Hermans, and Maes identify that the interviews of participants were not created to specifically assess the ecological model, which may have resulted in bias. Some of the levels of social inclusion were not directly included in the author’s questioning and so were only addressed so much as they were spontaneously referenced by the individuals or network members during their interviews. Another limitation mentioned is the incomplete understanding of the knowledge held by included network members and how their understanding of the individual’s social inclusion potentially offers a unique perspective. When an individual with a disability isn’t communicating nuanced information about their own social inclusion, a network member’s input may provide this valuable information. 

Summarized Article:

Meys, E., Hermans, K., & Maes, B. (2021). Using an ecological approach to grasp the complexity of social inclusion around a person with a disability. Disability and Health Journal, 14(4), 101152.

Summary by: Erin Madonna—Erin philosophically aligns with the MARIO Framework’s deeply rooted belief that all learners are capable, and she firmly believes in MARIO’s commitment to the use of evidence-based practices drawn from the field of multidisciplinary research.

Additional References:

  1. Rushbrooke, E., Murray, C. and Townsend, S. (2014), The Experiences of Intimate Relationships by People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Qualitative Study. J Appl Res Intellect Disabil, 27: 531-541. https://doi.org/10.1111/jar.12091

Key Takeaway

Family-Professional Partnerships (FPPs) are a crucial part of empowering a child to reach their full potential. To leverage this trusting relationship, universities should consistently address building FPPs in coursework. Teacher education should include a variety of ways for candidates to interact with and practice nurturing FPPs to make this a reality in all classrooms. —Ashley Parnell

Benefits of & Barriers to Family-Professional Partnerships

“Of all the factors that determine student outcomes, family engagement is at the top of the list.”1 Collaborative partnerships between families and school professionals positively impact: 1) inclusive school culture; 2) effective instructional practices; 3) family well-being and advocacy; and 4) improved student learning and post-school outcomes. 

Although the value of family-professional partnerships (FPPs) has been recognized in both policy and educational research for over four decades, these trusting relationships are more of an exception than a reality.2 One significant barrier to FPP involves limited and inconsistent teacher preparation in university coursework. Moreover, there is a paucity of research identifying both practices to support the development of FFPs and pedagogy aimed at preparing teachers to partner with families. 

In response, this qualitative study builds upon the existing research by exploring special education faculty decision-making regarding designing and delivering FPP content and skills in U.S. institutions of higher education. Researchers conducted individual interviews with 18 participants, all of whom taught FPP strategies in special education teacher preparation courses and/or taught an FPP-specific course in a university special education teacher preparation program. Findings were analyzed according to three key themes present in the interviews. 

Key Themes & Associated Takeaways

Theme 1: FPP definitions and targeted skills

  • FPP was generally defined as educators and families working together to meet student needs. 
  • FPP skills that the participants targeted included communication, perspective-taking, self-awareness, and legally required skills (i.e., procedural safeguards, involving parents in decision-making). 

Theme 2: Rationale for prioritizing FPP skills

  • Participant definitions, perceptions, and personal experiences influenced the FPP skills targeted within their courses.

Theme 3: Strategies for teaching FPP skills

  • Participants used personal experience stories, case studies, parent interviews, class discussions/group work, and communication materials development (i.e., writing a parent letter, creating classroom websites) to teach FPP skills.

Improve Teacher Preparation to Enhance FPPs

Findings from this study align with current research suggesting the following implications for practice:

  • Consider sharing experiences through dynamic storytelling, a useful tool in engaging students and reinforcing key skills. 
  • Infuse FPP throughout coursework.
  • Partner with family systems (e.g., parents, siblings, extended family members), not just parents. 
  • Directly target and teach FPP skills, rather than relying on university students to learn by observing mentor teachers or reflecting on their own experience. 
  • Utilize and incorporate real-life teacher/family stories by inviting guest speakers, building role-play activities, creating case students, and encouraging self-examination (i.e., assumptions, values, biases).
  • Seek to understand and address family needs to better build trusting partnerships rather than spending time determining what constitutes family over- or under- involvement, which is counterproductive to forging FPP. 

Summarized Article:

Francis, G.L., Kilpatrick, A., Haines, S.J., Gershwin, T., Kyzar, K.B., & Hossain, I. (2021). Special education faculty decision-making regarding designing and delivering family-professional partnership content and skills in the U.S. Teaching and Teacher Education, 105, 103419.

Summary by:  Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment and passion, and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

Additional References:

  1. Kaufman, T. (2019). Family engagement and student success: What the research. Understood. https://www.understood.org/articles/en/family-engagement-and-student-success
  2. Haines, S. J., Francis, G. L., Mueller, T. G., Chiu, C., Burke, M. M., Kyzar, K., …Turnbull, A. P. (2017). Reconceptualizing family-professional partnership for inclusive schools: A call to action. Inclusion, 5(4), 234e247. https://doi.org/10.1352/2326-6988-5.4.234.

Key Takeaway

Ayar et al. reveal relevant factors, including socioeconomic status, prenatal smoking, and screen time duration, associated with strengths and difficulties among children with specific learning disabilities. These results provide key takeaways for parents, educational institutions, and medical practitioners in adjusting their approach to raising and treating this group of children. —Emmy Thamakaison

Ayar et al. share their cross-sectional survey investigating the prevalence of certain social, emotional, and behavioural characteristics among children with specific learning disabilities (SLDs) and factors associated with such characteristics. Among a variety of surveys, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was administered, which evaluated “Conduct Problems (CP),” “Hyperactivity and Inattention (HI),” “Emotional Symptoms (ES),” “Peer Problems (PP),” and “Prosocial Behaviours (PsB).” Associated factors investigated include family socioeconomic status, early exposure to smoking, breastfeeding duration, early hospitalization, and childhood screen use. 

Environmental factors

Compared to the wealthier subgroup, individuals from a low socioeconomic background were at a higher risk of displaying CP and externalizing problems (EP), which is the sum of HI and PsB. This is supported by existing literature, as low-income families are associated with “unemployment, broken families, mentally unhealthy parents, and the use of improper education methods.”1, 2, 3

Biological factors

Breastfeeding has been thought to play a major role in cognitive development during early childhood.4,5 The current study found that children who breastfed for more than 12 months were less likely to experience PP, compared to children who breastfed for less than 12 months. These results are consistent with that of Belfort et al. and Bernard et al., which suggest that language development, motor function, and cognitive abilities improve with increased breastfeeding duration.6,7 Another explanation for this study’s findings is that “breastfeeding [can] have a protective role in preventing children from maltreatment by their mothers,” which translates into rewarding relationships later in life.8

Furthermore, maternal prenatal smoking is significantly associated with ES, CP, EP, IP, PsB, and Total Difficulties (TD; The sum of all difficulties scores). The effects of prenatal exposure to toxins through smoking have been well documented, and the results of this study are well supported. Maternal prenatal smoking has an overall negative impact on cognitive development, children’s learning outcomes, and increasing neurological brain abnormalities.9, 10, 11 

Early childhood hospitalization and screen use

The way children with SLDs were raised beyond infancy also plays a role in influencing their characteristics. Children with SLD with hospitalization histories were associated with a higher risk of HI and EP. In explaining this increased risk of SLD-ADHD comorbidity in children with early hospitalization, the authors suggest that “the hyperactivity of children may lead to more hospital visits” or “frequent hospital visits may increase hyperactivity by creating a negative experience.”

Further, abnormal PsB scores were also associated with a decreased age of first screen contact, and CP and EP problems increased with an increased daily preschool screen exposure of ≥4 hours. Ayar et al. suggest that inappropriate parenting styles (ie. low parental acceptance of their children, parental neglect, or overprotective parenting) are associated with increased risk of screen time, and can lead to abnormal prosocial behaviours. Additionally, since hyperactivity-inattention was not found to be associated with “current screen contact time,” authors conclude that “screen contact time was more important for SLD in the preschool period of the study.” Early childhood is a critical period for brain development and screen time exposure may do more harm than good during those years, as it may cause “insomnia, mood swings, and problems at school.”12

Ayar et al.’s results provide thoughtful takeaways both on multiple levels: 

  • Practitioners should become well aware of the behavioural risks associated with different familial, biological, and environmental factors among children with SLD and may need to provide special support for such groups. The authors state that “combining medical treatment with psychosocial support will increase treatment success” for these children. 
  • On a systematic level, schools and educational institutions should become well aware of such risks as well and provide systematic support as needed. 
  • To-be or current parents are reminded that prenatal smoking and early screen time exposure may have negative effects on their child’s development and may need to adjust their parenting behaviours accordingly. 

Summarized Article:

Ayar, G., Yalçın, S. S., Tanıdır Artan, Ö., Güneş, H. T., & Çöp, E. (2021). Strengths and difficulties in children with specific learning disabilities. Child: Care, Health and Development, 48(1). https://doi.org/10.1111/cch.12903

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison—Emmy is an undergraduate student at Stanford University and an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Lindström, M., Hansen, K., & Rosvall, M. (2012). Economic stress in childhood and adulthood, and self-rated health: a population based study concerning risk accumulation, critical period and social mobility. BMC Public Health, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-12-761
  2. Morrissey, K., & Kinderman, P. (2020). The impact of childhood socioeconomic status on depression and anxiety in adult life: Testing the accumulation, critical period and social mobility hypotheses. SSM – Population Health, 11, 100576. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100576
  3. Vogel, L. (2019). Poor mental health, poverty threaten Canadian kids: report. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 191(38), E1065–E1066. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.1095814
  4. Horta, B. L., Loret de Mola, C., & Victora, C. G. (2015). Breastfeeding and intelligence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, 104, 14–19. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.13139
  5. Victora, C. G., Bahl, R., Barros, A. J. D., França, G. V. A., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., Murch, S., Sankar, M. J., Walker, N., & Rollins, N. C. (2016). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, 387(10017), 475–490. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(15)01024-7
  6. Belfort, M. B., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Kleinman, K. P., Guthrie, L. B., Bellinger, D. C., Taveras, E. M., Gillman, M. W., & Oken, E. (2013). Infant Feeding and Childhood Cognition at Ages 3 and 7 Years. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(9), 836. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.455
  7. Bernard, J. Y., De Agostini, M., Forhan, A., Alfaiate, T., Bonet, M., Champion, V., Kaminski, M., de Lauzon-Guillain, B., Charles, M.-A., & Heude, B. (2013). Breastfeeding duration and cognitive development at 2 and 3 years of age in the EDEN mother-child cohort. The Journal of Pediatrics, 163(1), 36-42.e1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.11.090
  8. Taghıyev, A. (2020). Protective role of breastfeeding status, chronic health problems and temperament of children in maltreatment by mothers. Türk Pediatri Arşivi. https://doi.org/10.14744/turkpediatriars.2020.54280
  9. Anthopolos, R., Edwards, S. E., & Miranda, M. L. (2013). Effects of Maternal Prenatal Smoking and Birth Outcomes Extending into the Normal Range on Academic Performance in Fourth Grade in North Carolina, USA. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 27(6), 564–574. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppe.12081
  10. Cho, K., Frijters, J. C., Zhang, H., Miller, L. L., & Gruen, J. R. (2013). Prenatal Exposure to Nicotine and Impaired Reading Performance. The Journal of Pediatrics, 162(4), 713-718.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2012.09.041
  11. Biederman, J., Petty, C. R., Bhide, P. G., Woodworth, K. Y., & Faraone, S. (2011). Does exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy affect the clinical features of ADHD? Results from a controlled study. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 13(1), 60–64. https://doi.org/10.3109/15622975.2011.562243
  12. Domingues-Montanari, S. (2017). Clinical and psychological effects of excessive screen time on children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 53(4), 333–338. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.13462

Key Takeaway

For people with severe intellectual disabilities, transitioning to adult services marks a significant point in their lives. It is during these times and beyond that their involvement in big decisions, such as planning transitions, and the relationships between these people and family members have never been more important. This study explores the transition of six individuals with severe intellectual disabilities; the findings highlight how professionals can also form a close relationship with these individuals. — Michael Ho

Understanding Transitions

“While the need to better understand transitions to adult services for people with severe intellectual disabilities has been acknowledged, studies that examine transitions mostly include participants with mild-to-moderate intellectual disabilities”1 This aligns with the need to better understand the unique situation of individuals with severe intellectual disabilities transitioning to adult services.

Jacobs, Quayle, Wilkinson, and Macmahon (2021) investigated the transition experiences of six adults with severe intellectual disabilities, including transitions from school to adult services and moving out of the family home. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between families and professionals, to understand how they work together and what influenced their actions during transitions.

The ethics of care perspective is the backbone of this study that centers around relationships. “Ethics of care is a philosophical theory that emphasises the importance of interpersonal relationships and care to understand human flourishing.”2 It stresses that vulnerability and dependence are central to human life.

The participants’ immediate environments, as well as how far transitions were shaped by organizational practices and political and cultural spheres, were explored. Each case referred to the transition experience of one of the six participants. Information was collected through different data sources and through the perspectives of different stakeholders. In all six transition journeys, the participant was involved in planning their transitions. 

Findings

The study found that the participants were involved in decisions only within their immediate setting and not across ecological levels that included policy-making and service provision. This adds to the evidence that “people with intellectual disability and their families are largely excluded from decision-making processes on wider levels.”3 

There was evidence that participants were valued based on the relationships they had with support in their immediate environment. However, barriers included experiences of scarce resources, inflexible organizational structures, and a gap between the ideals of policies and actual possibilities within practice.

Another key finding highlights that while families, particularly mothers, play a central role in the lives of the child, relationships between people with severe intellectual disabilities and professionals cannot be overlooked.

This study highlights the understanding of transitions as multidimensional, which emphasizes that transitions never just affect one person and that they are influenced by the wider socio-economic context. This relational perspective shows that not only does the person with intellectual disabilities have needs, but their carers and other stakeholders involved also have needs and required support. 

Limitations

There were limitations to this study. First, all six participants were able to access services and involve their families to advocate on their behalf. This may not reflect the reality of other people with severe intellectual disabilities. In addition, the input and responses were from adults who knew and spent time with the participants. Therefore, the researchers cannot claim to represent the views and opinions of the participants themselves. 

Summarized Article:

Jacobs, P., Quayle, E., Wilkinson, H., & Macmahon, K. (2021). Relationships matter! Utilising ethics of care to understand transitions in the lives of adults with severe intellectual disabilities . British Journal of Learning Disabilities. https://doi.org/10.1111/bld.12380

Summary by: Michael Ho — Michael supports the MARIO Framework because it empowers learners to take full control of their personalized learning journey, ensuring an impactful and meaningful experience.

Additional References:

  1. Foley, K.-R., Dyke, P., Girdler, S., Bourke, J., & Leonard, H. (2012). Young adults with intellectual disability transitioning from school to post-school: A literature review framed within the ICF. Disability and Rehabilitation, 34, 1747–1764.
  2. Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. London: Psychology Press.
  3. Löve, L., Traustadóttir, R., Quinn, G., & Rice, J. (2017). The inclusion of the lived experience of disability in policymaking. Laws, 6, 33.

 Researcher Paula Jacobs participated in the final version of this summary. 

Key Takeaway

School counselors can play a key role in developing a school-wide, trauma-informed approach to advocating for culturally and linguistically diverse students with emotional and behavioral disorders. A strengths-based, holistic approach to student goal-setting that empowers families by taking unique cultural values into account is essential.  —Akane Yoshida

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students 

While traumatic stress is increasingly prevalent in children and young people, there is evidence to suggest that certain groups of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students are disproportionately affected.1 Moreover, CLD students are more likely to have trauma compounded by the process of assimilation into a new culture, increasing the odds that they will exhibit symptoms of emotional and behavioral disorder (EBD).

In presenting their rationale for focusing on the intersectional needs of CLD students with EBD, authors Hurless and Kong (2021) synthesize existing research on trauma-informed approaches—specifically, that of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—and provide a concrete framework for school counselors to consider in communicating with families of this population.

The authors set forth their recommended framework according to the phases of an individual education plan (IEP) meeting, as follows:

Before the IEP Meeting

When offering trauma-informed counseling services prior to the IEP discussion, school counselors should adopt a “strengths-based mindset and conceptualize the student’s behaviors as a function of what has happened to them rather than what is wrong with them.” This, combined with promoting school-wide awareness of diversity, can help to establish a safe and trusting climate from which student-centered educational and emotional recommendations can be made.

Hurless and Kong make a strong case for school counselors to meet with students and their families before the IEP meeting in order to communicate the logistics and the purpose of the meeting. Furthermore, maintaining regular communication outside of such formal occasions can “provide consistency and a sense of safety between educators and families.”

During the IEP Meeting

School counselors should validate students’ cultural experiences by openly and collaboratively discussing them as an integral part of the IEP process. They must also ensure that the voices of students and their families are championed as equal partners in the process and avoid reinforcing the power imbalance that often occurs between educator and family.

After the IEP Meeting

The authors state that regular follow-up from the school counselor to families—based on each family’s preferred method and frequency of communication—is crucial.

School counselors “should continue to reflect and examine their personal cultural perspectives to address any biases that can affect the outcomes of IEP meetings,” especially given that:

[a] truly trauma-informed approach acknowledges personal trauma in addition to the sociopolitical complexity of trauma, which recognizes the role of gender, race, class, and other cultural variables in the establishment of a system of care. Thus, cultural awareness and competence are integral pieces of effective implementation of trauma-informed approaches.” 

Additionally, Hurless and Kong provide a practical list of guiding questions for building supportive relationships with families of CLD students with EBD, as well as examples of group counseling skills for IEP meetings such as active listening, scanning for nonverbal clues, summarizing, and clarifying.

Summarized Article:

Hurless, N., & Kong, N. Y. (2021). Trauma-Informed Strategies for Culturally Diverse Students Diagnosed With Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 1053451221994814.

Summary by: Akane Yoshida — Akane believes in the MARIO Approach because it puts student agency at the heart of the learning and goal-setting process. She loves how the MARIO Framework operationalizes this process and utilizes systematic measurement of student learning and teacher effectiveness to guide interventions.

Additional Reference:

  1. Kafer, A. (2016). Un/safe disclosures: Scenes of disability and trauma. Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, 10(1), 1-20.

Researcher Nicole Hurless participated in the final version of this summary. 

Key Takeaway: Mueller illuminates key gaps in the present educational system that inhibits disability identity development; educators, administrators, and school staff should collectively work to counteract the lack of curriculum representation, community, and disabled staff in effectively teaching and empowering learners with special needs.—Emmy Thamakaison

Carlyn O. Mueller (University of Wisconsin) shares her qualitative interview study exploring disability identity development and its relationship to educational experiences. Nine adults with special needs were asked to reflect on their schooling experiences through a semi-structured interview process.

Disability identity is defined as “a sense of self that includes one’s disability and feelings of connection to, or solidarity with, the disability community.”1 It is generally accepted that the development of one’s disability identity is heavily influenced by educational experiences during youthful years; more often than not, those with disabilities are “often positioned such that they are likely (and even encouraged) to reject identifying as disabled”2 during their schooling. 

After the current study’s participants reflected upon their past educational experiences in relation to their disability identities, several unifying patterns emerged: firstly, all of the participants noticed a lack of disability representation in both special education and general education curriculum. 

  • Planned or guided discussions around disabilities were minimal if not nonexistent during their schooling years, as one participant noted, “it did not come up. It wasn’t shown in any of the history, or social studies, or multi-media, or anything else… there’s no word for [disability], no vocabulary.” 
  • Though the relationship between curriculum representation and disability identity may be influenced by extraneous factors (ie. stigma), the participants still implore for “more direct, explicit discussion around disability identity” in the schooling system; representation of disability culture and history may help mitigate negative experiences that are beyond the control of schooling and allow individuals with special needs to relate to themselves and others in the community better. 

Furthermore, the participants recalled a lack of disability community during their education. Connection with fellow individuals with special needs, perceived role models, or simply a sense of membership were often “actively discouraged,” as one participant recalled, “I remember them telling me, ‘…don’t associate with those people [other students with intellectual disabilities]’… even though those people I relate with the most.”

  • Importantly, special education spaces often foster “under-developed” disability communities, with their “segregated nature” and narratives that “there was something fundamentally wrong with their bodies, minds, or ways of being.” 
  • To this end, Mueller calls for the identification, correction, and counteraction of such narratives, as well as opportunities for students to “grow and learn around other children with disabilities”3 in a special education context.

Participants also unanimously agreed that there was a lack of school staff with open relationships with disabilities. Not only does this represent a missed opportunity for student empowerment through role-modelling, it also leads to educators being forced to “make their own assumptions, [which] produces really undesirable outcomes.” One participant states that “I would often get yelled at by some of my teachers when I was doing . . . normal autistic stuff, weird for neurotypicals,” and another recalls, “the special ed system didn’t really prepare me for adulthood in a lot of ways . . . it’s not built by people who understand what it’s really like.” 

  • In mitigating these present outcomes, Mueller suggests including disability history, pride, and community in teacher preparation programs; not only would this prime educators for teaching curricula with disability representation, it would also push teachers to challenge and expand their own beliefs about disabilities and commit to anti-ableist approaches that translate to a classroom setting. 
  • Active efforts to include educators, administrators, and paraprofessionals with disabilities into educational spaces are also vital. These individuals would potentially bring “a unique and powerful set of experiences and insights into the needs of children, youth, and families they serve.”4 

Ultimately, Mueller’s study illuminates gaps in the current general and special education system, in relation to students with disabilities. Through the words of individuals with special needs themselves, Mueller calls for a transformation of services and contexts that shape the disability identities of millions across the globe. Schools should make an active effort to “intentionally strengthen and name disability as an identity experience” so that future students look at the world and see a place for themselves in it.

Summarized Article:Mueller, C. O. (2021). “I Didn’t Know People With Disabilities Could Grow Up to Be Adults”: Disability History, Curriculum, and Identity in Special Education. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, 44(3), 189–205. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888406421996069

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison — Emmy is a recent high school graduate attending Stanford University and is an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Dunn, D. S., & Burcaw, S. (2013). Disability identity: Exploring narrative accounts of disability. Rehabilitation Psychology, 58(2), 148–157. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031691
  2. Annamma, S. A., Connor, D., & Ferri, B. (2013). Dis/ability critical race studies (DisCrit): theorizing at the intersections of race and dis/ability. Race Ethnicity and Education, 16(1), 1–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2012.730511
  3. Linton, S. (1998). Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York University Press.
  4. Council for Exceptional Children. (2016). CEC’s Policy on Educators with Disabilities. Exceptional Children, 82(4), 407–408. https://doi.org/10.1177/0014402916651880

Key Takeaway: In today’s globalized world, it is imperative that all students are able to use their unique voices and actively participate in conversations. In order to foster meaningful participation in the classroom, educators need to develop strong and trusting relationships with their students. Challenging the notion of what it means to be inclusive provides educators with the opportunity to re-imagine modern education by prioritizing relationships and placing human values at the center of the teaching and learning experience. —Taryn McBrayne

“It is essential to place the relationship between the teacher and the student at the core of teaching,” says Ann-Louise Ljungblad (Department of Education and Special Education at University of Gothenburg). Ljungblad shares her study on the theoretical perspective, Pedagogical Relational Teachership (PeRT), to promote trustful teacher-student relationships as a foundation for student participation and inclusion. The author, in conjunction with Biesta (2007),1 proposes that a new type of inclusion, known as “the incalculable,” be introduced into classrooms. 

As the article explains, this form of inclusion emphasizes student “subjectification” (Biesta, 2009)2 by considering “if, when and how students are given opportunities to participate in education and emerge with their own unique voices,” which Ljungblad (2016)3 believes is one of education’s main purposes. 

According to Ljungblad, the PeRT theory provides a third way for students to access knowledge, in addition to traditional individualist and collectivist approaches, whereby the relationship between teacher and student is leveraged. Relational pedagogy, the main component of the PeRT perspective, values relationships, and Ljungblad believes that “learning and knowledge can be seen as a result of relationships.” More specifically, the author explains that it is the relationship between students and their teachers that significantly impacts learning in what is referred to as the “in-between space.”3 Here, Ljungblad explains that, “since meanings are shared and located ‘in-between,’ we have to embrace this gap, and PeRT is a theoretical inclusive perspective that highlights this essential space.” 

To showcase the role of student-teacher relationships in increasing student participation, the author references a self-conducted, micro-ethnographic study in 2016 which surveyed one hundred children ranging in age and physical and intellectual ability.3 The results of this study suggest that “the teachers’ pedagogical tactfulness created space for the students’ unique voices to emerge.” Put simply, the manner in which teachers interacted with their students, namely a “listening and empathetic pedagogical stance,” positively influenced their levels of participation. 

The author outlines three dimensions of the PeRT model in the article: 

Dimension 1 – According to Ljungblad, “PeRT emphasizes a positive rights 

claim for teachers to actively support students,” meaning that acting based on what is in the best interest of the child and what allows them to achieve their potential serves as a way to encourage participation. These “positive rights” stem from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of a Child (CRC) and the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education. 

Dimension 2 – Inspired by Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory model, the PeRT model is multidimensional and “shows how different aspects of relational teachership are closely intertwined, from a micro-level to a macro-level.” Through adopting this model, teachers are challenged to change their teaching practices in order to relate to their students and to embrace student collaboration to best meet their needs. 

Dimension 3 – Shifting from Vygotsky’s Didactic Triangle, the PeRT inspired Relational and Didactic Star emphasizes the importance of relational adaptations in the classroom environment to encourage participation. Although a traditional triangle model “emphasises the purpose, content and methods [of teaching],” Ljunglad suggests that it does not “illuminate the people who participate in the teaching community.” Ljungblad argues that PeRT combines the two pedagogical approaches (didactic and relational), therefore creating potential for “double-meaning making” to occur for students. As the author shares, “these two facets of meaning-making are important when teachers develop relational and didactic adaptations to create accessibility to the content.” 

Ultimately, more studies are needed to further understand the complexities of relational values in inclusive education. However, PeRT is “an invitation to scholars and practitioners to use the multi-relational model as creative

inspiration to seek new knowledge and understanding about participation, accessibility and equity.” It is through positioning the teacher-student relationship at the heart of teaching that all students’ voices can be heard. 

Summarized Article:

Ljungblad, A.L. (2021). Pedagogical Relational Teachership (PeRT) – a multi-relational perspective, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Vol. 25 (7), 860-876. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2019.1581280

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne—Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

  1. Biesta, G. (2007). “Don’t Count Me in. Democracy, Education and the Question of Inclusion.” Nordic Studies in Education, Vol. 27 (1), 18–29. 
  2. Biesta, G. (2009). “Good Education in an Age of Measurement. On the Need to Reconnect with the Question of Purpose in Education.” Educational Assessment, Evaluation & Accountability, Vol. 21(1), 33–46. 
  3. Ljungblad, A.L. (2016). Takt och hållning – en relationell studie om det oberäkneliga i matematikundervisningen [Tact and Stance – A Relational Study About the Incalculable in Mathematics Teaching]. PhD diss., Gothenburg Studies in Educational Sciences, 381. Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.

Additional Reading: 

Key Takeaway: DeVries, Knickenberg, and Trygger report complex relationships between student characteristics (ie. the presence of learning differences), and self-perceived inclusion and academic self-regard. Both the novel and supported results reveal a gap, even in inclusive classes, and the need for educator and administrator-implemented inclusion interventions for at-risk students. – Emmy Thamakaison

Jeffrey DeVries (TU Dortmund University), Margarita Knickenberg (University of Bielefeld), and Maria Trygger (Saltsjöbadens Samskolan) share their cross-sectional study examining the association between student characteristics (gender, grade-level, special-education needs (SEN) status, and self-identified academic difficulties) with academic self-concept and perceptions of socio-emotional inclusion among fifth and eighth-grade students in an inclusion school. Additionally, they test the validity of the Perception of Inclusion Questionnaire (PIQ) in measuring emotional inclusion, social inclusion, and academic self-concept. 

Academic self-concept, or the way an individual regards their academic abilities, has conventionally been believed to be lower among students with SEN (ie. cognitive difficulties, learning disabilities), regardless of their inclusive educational context. DeVries et al. find this is the case not only for students with SEN diagnoses (p = 0.004), but also for students with self-reported difficulties yet no formal diagnoses (p = 0.007).

  • Grade level in combination with gender can significantly influence students’ academic self-concept. Regardless of SEN status, lower levels of self-concept were found for female students in eighth grade compared with that of female students in fifth grade. Male students, however, did not display such differences. 
  • In explaining this decline in academic self-concept, the authors cite “a decrease in maths-specific self-concept” for general female students and “different interactions with teachers and classmates”1 and “self-efficacy”2 for females with SEN. 

In terms of social and emotional inclusion, SEN status and grade were found to play an important role in determining students’ relative levels. 

  • Along with lower levels of academic self-concept, students with SEN diagnoses experienced lower levels of emotional inclusion. This cross-sectional data contradict that of a longitudinal study, which demonstrates a “boost to both emotional inclusion and academic self-concept over time” among students with SEN.3 Taken together, this suggests that “effective techniques” that address “the extent of students’ social inclusion in their classes and emotional wellbeing” may alleviate “the effects of SEN on academic self-concept “ and “emotional inclusion” over time.4,5
  • Similar to students with SEN, students with undiagnosed difficulties experienced lower levels of emotional inclusion. Interestingly, they also reported experiencing reduced social inclusion as well—a finding not seen in the SEN population. DeVries et al. suggest that this may demonstrate the comparable “lack of some inclusive support” for students with undiagnosed difficulties. 
  • Additionally, children in eighth grade reported significantly lower levels of social inclusion (p = 0.041). No significant variations due to gender were found for both social and emotional inclusion. 

Fulfilling one of the main objectives of this study, the authors provided further validation for the PIQ as an effective and easily understood tool; this 3-factor model of social inclusion, emotional inclusion, and academic self-concept was described to “demonstrate good psychometric properties,” which included measurement invariance (the extent to which items measure equivalently across different groups) and reliability. 

Ultimately, DeVries et al.‘s research provides useful insights into the relationship between student characteristics and levels of perceived socio-emotional inclusion, or academic self-concept. Much of these results (ie. students with SEN experiencing lower levels of emotional inclusion and self-concept) are supported by pre-existing research and emphasize the importance of interventions in alleviating some of the effects described above. This study’s finding of children with self-reported difficulties feeling less emotionally and socially included, as well as having a lower academic self-concept, poses some novel implications and questions; though “more research is needed to examine the exact nature and causes of these differences,” educators and administrators should “work to ensure that such at-risk learners feel included within the classroom.” 

Summarized Article:

DeVries, J. M., Knickenberg, M., & Trygger, M. (2021). Academic self-concept, perceptions of inclusion, special needs and gender: evidence from inclusive classes in Sweden. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2021.1911523

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison—Emmy is a recent high school graduate attending Stanford University and is an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q., & Nakata, Y. (2017). Engagement, gender, and motivation: A predictive model for Japanese young language learners. System, 65, 151–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2017.01.011
  2. Huang, C. (2012). Gender differences in academic self-efficacy: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 28(1), 1–35. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-011-0097-y
  3. DeVries, J. M., Voß, S., & Gebhardt, M. (2018). Do learners with special education needs really feel included? Evidence from the Perception of Inclusion Questionnaire and Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 83, 28–36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2018.07.007
  4. Haeberlin, U., U. Moser, G. Bless, and R. Klaghofer (1989). Questionnaire for Assessing Dimensions of Integration of Students. Integration in Die Schulklasse. Fragebogen Zur Erfassung Von Dimensionen Der Integration Von Schülern FDI 4–6
  5. Hascher, T., and G. Hagenauer (2011). Schulisches Wohlbefinden Im Jugendalter– Verläufe Und Einflussfaktoren. Jahrbuch Jugendforschung: 10, 15–45.

Key Takeaway: Research has indicated that parental training and coaching programmes can be effectively translated into the student’s natural environment. Studies have also provided support for using routines-based models to improve the quality of goals in early intervention/early childhood special education professional training programmes. —Emmy Thamakaison

Sara Movahedazarhouligh (2021) at the University of Northern Colorado shares her systematic review investigating the effectiveness of family-centered practices in naturalistic settings and the early-intervention of such practices in parent training.

The routines-based (RB) family-centered approach was suggested to be functional in naturalistic settings for toddlers with Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or developmental delays. Specifically, using “varied family-identified routines” resulted in “parents [being] more likely to use communication strategies” and “children [being] more likely to use targeted communication skills,” Movahedazarhouligh (2021) quotes Brown & Woods (2015).1

  • Modelling intervention practices and providing parents with opportunities to implement interventions has been reported to correspond with “positive changes in [children’s] communication skills” and results in better unprompted requests in children with ASD and partial hemispherectomies, based on research by Meadan et al. (2013),2 Ingvarsson (2011),3 and Chaabane et al. (2009).4
  • The family-centered approach of problem-solving is suggested to have “contributed to the stability and durability of reductions in challenging behaviour” of young learners in a study by Moes & Frea (2002).5
  • Other family-centered approaches, including written instructions, performance-based feedback, and role-play, have also been suggested to contribute to improvement in aspects such as “children’s independent work skills,” “social interaction,” and “participation in play dates” based on work by Welterin et al. (2012),6 and Jull & Merinda (2011).7

Approaches focusing on RB interventions are also suggested to be beneficial in training programmes for interventionists, as they “improved quality ratings of goals and objectives” and resulted in “professionals’ knowledge, understanding, confidence, and home visiting skills [increasing] from pre to post-intervention.”

The effectiveness of other family-centered approaches other than RB in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education training programmes are yet to be explored in a wider context.

Though further research is needed, there is a “growing body of evidence” that has “validated many of the theoretical links between family-centered approaches . . . and desirable outcomes for families with a child with disability.” Therefore, practices that employ family-centered care and encourage parent-implemented interventions are encouraged as an early intervention for some children with special needs.

Article Summarized: Movahedazarhouligh, S. (2021). Parent-implemented interventions and family-centered service delivery approaches in early intervention and early childhood special education. Early Child Development and Care, 191, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2019.1603148

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison—Emmy is a recent high school graduate attending Stanford University and is an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

1. Brown, J. A., & Woods, J. J. (2015). Effects of a triadic parent-implemented home-based communication intervention for toddlers. Journal of Early Intervention, 37(1), 44–68. doi:10.1177/1053815115589350

2. Meadan, H., Meyer, L. E., Snodgrass, M. R., & Halle, J. W. (2013). Coaching parents of young children with autism in rural areas using internet-based technologies: A pilot program. Rural Special Education Quarterly; Morgantown, 32(3), 3–10.

3. Ingvarsson, E. T. (2011). Parent-implemented mand training: Acquisition of framed manding in a young boy with partial hemispherectomy. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(1), 205–209. doi:10.1901/jaba.2011.44-205

4. Chaabane, D. B. B., Alber-Morgan, S. R., & DeBar, R. M. (2009). The effects of parent-implemented PECS training on improvisation of mands by children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(3), 671–677.

5. Moes, D. R., & Frea, W. D. (2002). Contextualized behavioral support in early intervention for children with autism and their families. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 32(6), 519–533. doi:10.1023/A:1021298729297

6. Welterlin, A., Turner-Brown, L. M., Harris, S., Mesibov, G., & Delmolino, L. (2012). The home teaching program for toddlers with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(9), 1827–1835. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1419-2

7. Jull, S., & Mirenda, P. (2011). Parents as play date facilitators for preschoolers with autism. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 13(1), 17–30. doi:10.1177/1098300709358111

Key Takeaway: High expectations play a vital role in developing future success in students. For learners, frequent educational and vocational discussions with friends, family, and teachers during adolescence can be incredibly important in fostering their aspirations and transforming them into reality. —Emmy Thamakaison

Lynette Vernon (Edith Cowan University) and Catherine Drane (Curtin University) share their retrospective, cross-sectional study examining the association between student characteristics (ie. socio-economic status (SES), gender) alongside discussions with influential figures (ie. family members, friends, teachers) and expectations to attend university, receive vocational/technical education, or go into full-time employment after secondary school.

SES’s contributions to the development of future aspirations have long been debated, in particular, the suggested relationship between lower SES and lower educational and vocational aspirations. Vernon and Drane present their arguments against this as their results revealed that “career and educational aspirations for students, predominantly from low SES background were high” but found that often “the missing element is the knowledge of how to make these aspirations concrete and obtainable.”1 

  • Compared to students with higher SES, those with lower SES tend to engage more frequently in Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and Vocational Education and Training (VET) discussions and less frequently in university discussions. 
  • Students discuss their aspirations with their parents and peers more than their teachers and counsellors. Therefore, it is vital for these high-impact influencers to “have the necessary up-to-date knowledge and skills to provide the relevant information around educational opportunities.” However, parents of students of lower SES may lack the prerequisite knowledge as they may not have experience with university and/or TAFE/VET pathways. Thus, informative parental support and discussions with multiple influencers may be beneficial to maintaining high aspirations. 

Apart from SES, other factors such as gender, academic year level, and first-in-family (to attend university) status are considered “important predictors” for students’ vocational and higher education expectations. 

  • University discussions affected female students more significantly in terms of their expectations to receive higher education.
  • Those with first-in-family statuses engaged in discussions about university more frequently than those whose family members have attended university, indicating “their capabilities of resilience, motivation, and tenacity to explore university pathways.” However, first-in-family status was not associated with TAFE/VET expectations.
  • Vernon and Drane found that year level (grade level) indirectly contributed to the pathways between discussions on university, TAFE-VET, or full-time employment expectations.

Regardless of individual characteristics, frequent discussions about students’ futures allows the maintenance of their aspirations and sets them on the path to reaching their potential. 

  • As one of the main confidantes for a student, parents are encouraged to “provide the reality context for their children around their educational desires” in the discussions. 
  • Teachers remain largely untapped for valuable aspirational discussions. Prioritizing career education in a school setting and promoting teachers as a “positive, knowledgeable, and accessible resource” can therefore go a long way in “empowering [students] to pursue their desired education and career pathways”. 

Ultimately, this research encourages policy-makers, teachers, and influencers to recognize the importance of discussions around educational and vocational pathways. Adolescence is a critical transitional period as students decide what they will pursue beyond secondary school. While individual factors influence future expectations differently, increasing the frequency of quality discussions with influential figures can “provide the opportunity for all students to practice and develop their capacity to aspire and meet their career [and educational] expectations.”

Summarized Article:

Vernon, L., & Drane, C. F. (2021). Influencers: the importance of discussions with parents, teachers and friends to support vocational and university pathways. International Journal of Training Research, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/14480220.2020.1864442

Summary by: Emmy Thamakaison — Emmy is a recent high school graduate attending Stanford University and is an enthusiastic advocate of MARIO Framework.

Research author Lynette Vernon, Ph.D., was involved in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. St. Clair, R., Kintrea, K., & Houston, M. (2013). Silver bullet or red herring? New evidence on the place of aspirations in education. Oxford Review of Education, 39(6), 719–738. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2013.854201