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Each year, the TASH Conference strengthens the disability field by connecting attendees to innovative information and resources, facilitating connections between stakeholders within the disability movement, and helping attendees reignite their passion for an inclusive world. This year’s conference theme, “Gateway to Equity,” explores inclusive communities, schools, and workplaces that support people with disabilities, including those with complex support needs, in living a fair, just, and balanced life. Return to TASH website.
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Friday, December 2 • 1:30pm - 2:20pm
Sense of belonging for students with intensive special education needs in Finland LIMITED

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Limited Capacity seats available

Sense of belonging has been defined as the degree to which an individual feels included, accepted, and supported by others in a variety of social settings, for example, a school context. Previous research on sense of belonging has mainly focused on students with special needs in inclusive schools. There appears to be a shortage of research on sense of belonging in different school placements (both mainstream and special schools) and in post-school life for individuals with intensive special education needs. This recent doctoral study consists of three related (Studies I-III), internationally published peer-reviewed articles examining to what extent sense of belonging can be supported in school and in post-school life for students with intensive special education needs in Finland. Particular focus was placed on the voices of those students in order to understand how best to create a positive school climate that supports sense of belonging for all. Teacher perceptions of the implemented three-tiered support model (similar to the RTI model in The US) and school visit data were utilized to contextualize the students??? conceptions and experiences. Study I examined conceptions associated with sense of belonging in general and special school placements for middle-school students with intensive special education needs (N = 5). In Study II, which was based on the narratives of two females (ages 26 and 29) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the focus was on sense of belonging and various life transition issues that may appear in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in the absence of appropriate social supports. Study III examined the implementation of new, special education legislation in Finland (Basic Education Act 642/2010) among students with intensive special education needs. The material for Study III consisted of (1) survey data on teacher perceptions (N = 526) of the implementation of the education legislation and the current organization of special education services, and (2) observations of the implementation of the legislation in schools (N = 12) across Finland. In Study I, the qualitative phenomenographic analyses of interview transcripts revealed various conceptions regarding the students??? sense of belonging in different school placements (general and special). The students had undergone numerous placements in which their sense of belonging had been jeopardized, as disturbing relationships with teachers and peers seemed to have affected the students??? mental and physical well-being, resulting in disturbing behaviors in their earlier educational settings. Despite the various placements, the students felt ???better?? in their current, special, school, which had a positive climate. The results of Study II demonstrated that lack of social support increases the number of school placements and transitions and causes biases in forming a sense of belonging. The findings further suggested that providing social assistance and positive life experiences during emerging adulthood (ages 18-25) seems to matter most in forming a strong sense of belonging in life. Furthermore, the findings of both Studies I and II suggested that, for individuals with intensive special education needs, adapting one???s behavior in order to feel a sense of belonging (Juvonen, 2006) might be associated with hiding the unique characteristics of a person???s special needs. Study III found that teachers??? values and beliefs seem to influence the organization of special education (e.g., affecting the overall school climate). Furthermore, some schools and teachers implemented the law???s integration requirement by placing all students with intensive special needs in separate units or school buildings, whereas other schools placed students in general education. Generally, the findings suggest that students with intensive special education needs can feel a sense of belonging primarily in schools in which adults work in multidisciplinary collaboration, which helps to create an accepting and supportive school climate. In the post-school phase, it appeared that positive experiences during emerging adulthood (between the ages of 18 and 25) seem to matter most in generating a strong sense of belonging to a community. Hence, individuals with intensive special needs would benefit from ongoing support from the time they first enter school with continuation through the post-school transition phase and into adulthood. Also, the results hypothetically imply that the school principal plays a significant role in creating a school climate that supports a sense of belonging for all students. 1. Participants will gain understanding about the implementation of special education legislation in Finland 2. Participants will learn about the culture of trust toward teachers, principals and schools 3. Participants will gain understanding about the school climate that is necessary for students to feel a sense of belonging 4. Participants will learn about the policy implementation necessary for all students to feel that they belong (what the US could possibly learn from Finland and vice versa)

Speakers
avatar for Henri  Pesonen

Henri Pesonen

University lecturer, researcher, University of Eastern Finland


Friday December 2, 2016 1:30pm - 2:20pm CST
Midway Suites III 1820 Market Street, St. Louis, MO 63103

Attendees (5)