Spanish and Irish images of special needs: Perceptions of inclusion
Gash H., Romeu N. I. & Pina J. A. L. (2004) Spanish and Irish images of special needs: Perceptions of inclusion. In: Walsh P. N. & Gash H. (eds.) Lives and Times: Practice Policy and People with disability. Wordwell, Dublin: 180–223. Available at http://cepa.info/2911
Table of Contents
Study 1: Irish and Spanish attitudes to intellectual disability
The general strategy
The attitudinal factors and variables
The adjective checklist and variables
Study 2: Irish and Spanish attitudes to down syndrome and intellectual disability
Sociability and schooling
The validity study
An evaluation of integration at second level
A qualitative approach to perception of down syndrome in ireland and spain
Question 1: ‘Do you think that children with Down Syndrome should go to ordinary schools?’
Question 2 (Spanish sample only): ‘What do you know about children with Down Syndrome?’
Question 3: ‘If you know someone with Down Syndrome, how do you feel when you relate with them?’
Adults’ attitudes towards integration
The aim of the present chapter is to examine attitudes and images relating to inclusive education programmes with a view to understanding more fully the socio-emotional context within which inclusion takes place. This paper views conceptions of others, as social conservations in the Piagetian sense or as social constructions in a constructivist framework. A number of elements are brought to bear on this issue. They include examination of variations in children’s representations of intellectual disability and Down Syndrome, attitudes towards inclusive education and the issue of the validity of this type of attitude measure. Children in middle childhood are building their self-representations (Harter 1998), and we believe that representations of self and other develop together as youngsters mature. Further, there is good evidence that difficulties with peers place children at risk for developing psychological problems (Harter 1998). In a series of classroom intervention studies the first author has investigated children’s representations of their peers with special needs. Two sets of linked studies are described in this chapter. The first set is based on the use of questionnaire techniques to examine children’s attitudes towards intellectual disability and Down Syndrome. There are four studies in the first set. The first compares attitudes of samples of Irish and Spanish primary school pupils towards integrated or included pupils with intellectual disability. The second re-examines these cross-cultural findings through use of data requiring a more focused or restricted representation of intellectual disability, specifying Down Syndrome. The third provides evidence for the contextual validity of this attitude measure, and the fourth is an evaluation of a programme of integration at second level. The second set of studies examines in more detail children’s and parents’ attitudes towards integration and Down Syndrome. Subsequently there has been a dramatic increase in the educational services for children in difficulty in many Irish schools. The various images constructed by the participants in their different contexts we hope will challenge stereotyping and facilitate inclusion.
Key words: Stereotypes, children, social constructions, inclusive education, representation of disability
The integration of pupils with a disability in ordinary schools is strongly recommended and accepted as a valuable goal; however, few studies examine the way integration works socially (Pijl and Meijer 1991). In the US this practice is called ‘mainstreaming’; in Europe it is often called ‘integration’, though there has been a shift recently towards using the phrase ‘inclusive education’ to emphasise inclusion in the classroom and school. The aim of the present chapter is to examine attitudes and images relating to inclusive education programmes with a view to understanding more fully the socio-emotional context within which inclusion takes place. A number of elements are brought to bear on this issue. They include examination of variations in children’s representations of intellectual disability and Down Syndrome, attitudes towards inclusive education and the issue of the validity of this type of attitude measure. Children in middle childhood are building their self-representations (Harter 1998), and we believe that representations of self and other develop together as youngsters mature. Further, there is good evidence that difficulties with peers place children at risk for developing psychological problems (Harter 1998).
In a series of classroom intervention studies the first author has investigated children’s representations of their peers with special needs. Gender and grade level differences have consistently been found in these studies (Gash 1993; Gash and Coffey 1995; Gash 1996). Girls have been found to be more sociable, more socially concerned and more positive towards children with an intellectual disability than boys (Gash 1993). Older children have been found to be more socially concerned, more sociable and more positive towards integration (Gash 1993). Further, girls in a school with a special class were more socially concerned and sociable than peers in a similar school without this facility (Gash and Coffey 1995).
Two sets of linked studies are described in this chapter. The first set is based on the use of questionnaire techniques to examine children’s attitudes towards intellectual disability and Down Syndrome. There are four studies in the first set. The first compares attitudes of samples of Irish and Spanish primary school pupils towards integrated or included pupils with intellectual disability. The second re-examines these cross-cultural findings through use of data requiring a more focused or restricted representation of intellectual disability, specifying Down Syndrome. The third provides evidence for the contextual validity of this attitude measure, and the fourth is an evaluation of a programme of integration at second level.
The second set of studies examines in more detail children’s and parents’ attitudes towards integration and Down Syndrome. The first of these is a qualitative assessment of Irish and Spanish primary school pupils’ thinking about aspects of Down Syndrome, in particular inclusion of Down Syndrome children in their classrooms, and how pupils feel about socialising with peers with Down Syndrome. The second is based on a nationwide sample of 501 Irish farmers to assess their attitudes towards integration and its management in the Irish educational system. This provides data on adults’ attitudes towards integration. It is important to note that these data were collected just prior to 1996 and so reflect the Irish primary system at that time. Subsequently there has been a dramatic increase in the educational services for children in difficulty in many Irish schools.
In the broader cultural domain the process of social identification is known to be important in the integration of minority groups into society (e.g. Lalonde et al. 1992). Learning to make friends and to have an identity in a group of friends is one of the tasks of childhood. A key element in the glue cementing a social group together is an individual’s acceptance of the attitudes that this particular group considers important. If a child is different from other children this matching of attitudes may be more difficult. In the microcosm of classroom or school, attitudes play a central role in determining the success of integration and inclusion. Negative attitudes on the part of teachers or students towards a child with a disability may arise because of limited experience (e.g. Hegarty 1993). Whatever their origin, negative attitudes are likely to affect the quality of classroom and school life. Helen Keller is known to have said that the heaviest burdens of disability arise from difficulties in social relations and not from the disability itself. The present studies are concerned principally with two types of attitudes in children. The first is about sociable acceptance and concern, and the second is about acceptance of integration and inclusion. While these two are not identical, they are closely linked to the context in which friendships are formed in school. In turn, friendships support good outcomes across development in childhood (e.g. Hartup 1983; 1996).
Study 1: Irish and Spanish attitudes to intellectual disability
Ireland and Spain differ sharply in the emergence of inclusive practice, though both countries have similarly positive official policies towards it. An early official Irish view is that, ‘except where individual circumstances make this impracticable, appropriate education for all children with special educational needs should be provided in ordinary schools’ (Ireland 1993, 20). The Education Act (Ireland 1998) contains a similar qualification to provision of inclusion. The mechanisms planned to help teachers in integrated classrooms are only beginning to be put in place in Ireland, though some increases in promised finance have appeared (e.g. Ó Murchú and Shevlin 1995). In Spain the situation is different because since 1985 (e.g. Marchesi et al. 1991) there has been active promotion and facilitation of integration of children with special needs in selected Spanish schools. While there remains variability in the attitudes of Spanish teachers towards integration (Marchesi et al. 1991), it is likely that visible support for integration has played a role in making integration ‘believable’, as it was intended to do.
We were unable to locate studies on children’s attitudes to integration and inclusion in Spain. The present study is the first that we are aware of in which national comparisons have been possible on these dimensions. Consequently, we feel it would be the safer strategy not to hypothesise about possible cultural difference but rather, following the example of Sundberg et al. (1991), to let the data speak for themselves and formulate hypotheses for later research.
The subjects were 136 Irish primary school urban children in ordinary (non-mainstreamed) schools at second class (approximately eight years of age) and fifth class (approximately eleven years of age), and 113 Spanish urban children in similar schools at the equivalent grade level (see Table 1).
Table 1: Subjects by nationality by gender and grade.
Mental handicap study
Down Syndrome Study
The questionnaire used to investigate the children’s attitudes towards children with learning disability has been described fully in Gash 1993. (The Spanish version is available from the first author.) There were three parts to this questionnaire.
A 20-item attitude scale about a child with intellectual disability: ‘I would like you to pretend that a new child came to your class this year. He or she has a mental handicap. Here are some questions for you to answer.’ Responses to the items received one for ‘yes’ and two for ‘no’. These 20 questions are presented in Table 2.A section to assess the child’s experience of children with intellectual disability (‘Are there any children with a mental handicap in your school/class, and do you know anybody who has a mental handicap?’).A 34-adjective checklist: ‘If you were describing him or her to your other friends which of these words do you think you would use?’
The general strategy
In previous studies using this questionnaire (Gash 1993; Gash and Coffey 1995; Gash 1996) variables were constructed from two sources: first following a factor analysis of 20 attitudinal questions from the 791 pupils in Gash 1993 and by forming variables by summing scores on questions correlating highly on each factor, and second by constructing variables from the 34 descriptive words following an a priori categorisation of these words and then by creating a score based on the number of terms used by pupils in each of these categories.
Table 2: Attitude scale questions
Would you smile at him/her on the first day?Would you ask him/her to sit beside you?Would you chat to him/her at break time?Later on, would you tell him/her secrets that you usually keep for your friends?Would you make him/her your best friend?Would you invite him/her to your house to play in the evenings?Would you feel angry if he/she did not keep the rules of your games at playtime?Would you invite him/her to your birthday party with your other friends?Would you pick him/her on your team in a competition?Would you ask him/her questions about himself/herself?Would you care if other children made fun of the handicapped child?Do you think the handicapped child could do the same maths as you?Do you think that he/she could read the same books as you?Do you think that he/she would have the same hobbies as the ordinary children?Would you feel afraid of him/her because he/she is mentally handicapped?Do you think mentally handicapped children should be taught in the same classroom as ordinary children?Should mentally handicapped children have their own special classroom in your school?Should mentally handicapped children have their own special school where all the children are handicapped?Do handicapped children prefer other handicapped children as friends?Can you tell if a child is mentally handicapped by just looking at his/her face?
The attitudinal factors and variables
A re-examination[Note 1] of the original data (Gash 1993) provided support for the general strategy used previously with the 20 attitudinal questions but simplified the analysis by specifying two as compared to four composite variables (e.g. Gash 1993; Gash and Coffey 1995).
Composite variables were created by adding items which loaded at 0.40 or more on two factors. Items that loaded negatively on the factors were recoded (1=2 and 2=1) to contribute positively to each composite variable. In these studies item consistency, a form of reliability, was assessed using Cronbach’s a on each composite variable.
The first factor dealing with sociability and social concern for the child with intellectual disability was made up of the following items: a willingness to smile at him/her (item 1), to sit beside him/her (item 2), to chat to him/her (item 3), to tell secrets to him/her (item 4), to have him/her as a best friend (item 5), to invite him/her home (item 6) or to a birthday party (item 8), to include him/her on their team (item 9), to be concerned if he/she were teased (item 11), and (not) to be upset if he/she broke the rules of a game (item 7 was recoded). Cronbach’s coefficient a for this variable was 0.72 (Irish sample 0.65; Spanish sample 0.72). Recall that on all attitudinal items ‘yes’ scores one and ‘no’ scores two: low scores, therefore, imply a greater disposition towards social concern and sociability while high scores indicate less concern and unsociability.
The second factor concerned schooling. Items that loaded on this were about the child with intellectual disability being able to do the same maths (item 12), reading (item 13) and hobbies (item 14) as the other children, and the three items about schooling (16 to 18). Items 17 and 18 were recoded (1=2; 2=1), so a low score on this composite variable means that a child with intellectual disability should be taught in the same classroom (item 16), should not have their own special classroom in the school (item 17) and should not have their own special school (item 18). In other words, low scores on this variable imply an acceptance of total integration or inclusion and imply a belief in the ability of a child with intellectual disability to cope in ordinary classrooms. High scores indicate a focus on the serious difficulties a child with intellectual disability could experience in following the same academic programme in the same classroom. Coefficient a for this variable was 0.73 (Irish sample 0.72; Spanish sample 0.76).
The adjective checklist and variables
On this checklist each child was asked to indicate words he or she would use to describe a child with intellectual disability to their friends from a set of descriptors identified earlier in pilot tests. The 34 words were grouped into sets by consensus amongst student teachers who taught experimental classes in the original study. These included positive terms, negative terms and sensitive terms. We created three scales by summing the frequency of use of words in each category. Each scale indicates the salience of the dimension to pupils’ ways of thinking about a child with intellectual disability.
The positive terms were as follows: clever, kind, friendly, lovable and happy; coefficient a for this variable was 0.69 (Irish sample 0.71; Spanish sample 0.67). The negative terms were: dirty, stupid, untidy, bold, dumb, rough, spa, crazy, geek, thick, simple, scary, dork, retarded, moron, twit, freak, idiot and nerd; coefficient a for this variable was 0.85 (Irish sample 0.87; Spanish sample 0.84). Finally, the sensitive terms were: special, sad, lonely, ashamed and unhappy; coefficient a for this variable was 0.52, and when the words ‘special’ and ‘ashamed’ were removed from the composite variable ( rose to 0.63 (Irish sample 0.66; Spanish sample 0.60). High scores on each scale indicates the dimension’s importance to the pupils’ way of thinking about a child with intellectual disability. (The remaining terms were neutral or descriptive: neat, careful, different, shy and sloppy. These descriptive terms were not used in the present study as coefficient a was only 0.32.)
Five separate three-way (nationality, gender and grade level) analyses of covariance[Note 2] were undertaken with sociability, attitude to schooling and word use (positive, negative and sensitive words) as dependent variables. Experience/inexperience of intellectual disability was used as a covariate since it has been shown to influence responses to these variables in previous studies. There were slight non-significant differences between samples in pupils who said they knew a child with intellectual disability (Spain 70%, Ireland 61%). Interaction effects were examined using post-hoc Scheffé contrasts (pSave Selection
The Spanish sample were more sociable towards children with intellectual disability than the Irish sample (Table 3) (F(1, 230) = 59.84, ppppSave Selection
Table 3: Summaries of (un-)sociability in relation to intellectual disability by levels of country, and gender by country.
VariableValue LabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population12.302.13239COUNTRYIrish13.142.06129COUNTRYSpanish11.311.76110GRADELower12.152.03110GRADEUpper12.432.22129GENDERMale13.102.3399COUNTRYIrish14.251.9156COUNTRYSpanish11.601.9743GENDERFemale11.731.78140COUNTRYIrish12.291.7673COUNTRYSpanish11.121.6167
Irish pupils used significantly more positive terms than Spanish pupils (Table 4) (F(1, 230) = 4.70, ppppSave Selection
Table 4: Summaries of use of positive adjectives in relation to intellectual disability by levels of country, gender by grade, and gender–grade and country.
Variable ValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population2.851.55239COUNTRYIrish3.021.57129COUNTRYSpanish2.651.51110GENDERMale2.231.6099GRADELower1.901.4849GRADEUpper2.561.6650GENDERFemale3.281.36140GRADELower3.611.4161GRADEUpper3.031.2879COUNTRYIrish3.021.57129GENDERMale2.201.6056GRADELower1.661.3332GRADEUpper2.921.6724GENDERFemale3.641.2373GRADELower3.921.2638GRADEUpper3.341.1435COUNTRYSpanish2.651.51110GENDERMale2.281.6143GRADELower2.351.6617GRADEUpper2.231.6126GENDERFemale2.881.4067GRADELower3.091.5023GRADEUpper2.771.3444
As might be expected from the results described above on use of positive adjectives, Spanish pupils used significantly more negative adjectives than Irish pupils (Table 5) (F(1, 230) = 8.18, ppppSave Selection
Table 5: Summaries of use of negative adjectives in relation to intellectual disability by levels of gender, grade, country, country by grade.
Variable ValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population2.533.27239GENDERMale3.574.0599GENDERFemale1.802.33140GRADELower2.883.43110GRADEUpper2.233.10129COUNTRYIrish2.023.10129GRADELower1.562.4270GRADEUpper2.583.7059COUNTRYSpanish3.133.37110GRADELower5.203.7240GRADEUpper1.942.4870
Table 6: Summaries of use of sensitive words in relation to intellectual disability by levels of country by grade.
Variable ValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population1.221.12239COUNTRYIrish1.401.15129GRADELower1.261.1570GRADEUpper1.581.1359COUNTRYSpanish1.001.04110GRADELower1.201.0940GRADEUpper.891.0070
Overall, Irish pupils used more sensitive terms than Spanish pupils (F(1, 230) = 7.89, ppSave Selection
For two reasons it is wise to be cautious about these results. First, the samples are small and may not be representative of all Spanish and Irish children. Second, these comparisons are about children’s perceptions of children with intellectual disability, so comparisons have not been made which reflect children’s friendships in general in either culture. In fact, it is important to note that such judgements are unlikely to be made successfully with questionnaires like this, requiring children to respond to stereotyped images. The coefficients of internal consistency (Cronbach’s a) were sufficiently high, however, for us to be reasonably certain of the coherence of these data for this sample.
The Spanish sample differed from the Irish sample in a number of ways, though in each instance either gender or grade interactions were involved. The greater sociability of children in the Spanish sample was a striking difference. An interaction implied that Irish boys were less sociable than both Spanish boys and girls, and also than Irish girls; further, Irish girls were less sociable than Spanish girls. It is also noteworthy that Spanish boys and girls are very similar on this variable in contrast to the difference between Irish boys and girls.
How can the results be explained? We propose two related lines of argument. First, integration has been actively promoted in Spanish schools for a decade, so the idea of integration of children with intellectual disability has more public acceptance in Spain than in Ireland, where the policy to integrate is promoted and supported financially with less vigour. In the Spanish social context, therefore, it is reasonable to expect that more young children will be aware that children with intellectual disability go to school in some (integrated) primary schools. In Spain these integrated schools take in a small number of children with a special need into each entering class each year. In Ireland there is no policy of designating particular schools as integrated schools in this sense. While services are provided, at the time the data were collected over 50% of children with a specific disability in ordinary schools did not have access to a remedial teacher (Ireland 1993). On this line of argument, then, more Spanish children meet children with diverse forms of intellectual disability in schools. If some Spanish children have fears regarding children with intellectual disability, they express these fears early, as in this sample by younger children. We can argue that Spanish children are more sociable towards children with intellectual disability, especially in contrast to Irish boys, partly because the idea of socialising with them is not unexpected.
Second, because of their more varied experience, Spanish children’s representations of intellectual disability may be less severe. In support of this, older Spanish children are less inclined to see children with intellectual disability as sad, lonely and unhappy because they are not like this in school. In contrast, older Irish children showed increased use of both negative and sensitive words, signalling that their representation of ‘child with a mental handicap’ is a rejected image. To examine these hypotheses in more detail, we compare data from a study focusing on children with Down Syndrome(Gash et al. 2000).
The main hypothesis is that sociability in Spanish pupils stems from the educational changes beginning in 1985 to promote integration. Consequently Spanish children have a more diversified and therefore less negative notion of intellectual disability than Irish children. If this is the case, differences between Irish and Spanish children in terms of socialising with Down Syndrome children may not exist.
Study 2: Irish and Spanish attitudes to down syndrome and intellectual disability
We believe that children’s images of children with Down Syndrome are potentially less variable than images of children with ‘a mental handicap’. Photographs of children with Down Syndrome were used to increase the homogeneity of understanding amongst the children. The questionnaire was the same as that used previously except that references to intellectual disability were replaced by references to Down Syndrome. The pupils selected from the Down Syndrome data set were approximately the same grade (eight years old and eleven years old) and in non-integrated schools. There were differences between national samples in numbers of pupils who said they knew a child with Down Syndrome (Ireland 40%, Spain 64%) (2 (1) = 10.82, pSave Selection
Using these two data sets we investigated two questions. First, are children’s responses to children with intellectual disability and Down Syndrome different using this questionnaire? Second, does this evidence support the idea that Irish and Spanish children differ in their responses? The analyses used to answer these questions followed the lines described above in the first study and are based partly on the data relating to Down Syndrome, and partly on the two data sets treated together. The strategy we adopted to answer these questions was first to analyse the data on Down Syndrome and then to repeat the analyses for the two data sets merged. We report summary analyses of covariance (levels of significance and F tests) for the five dependent variables for both the Down Syndrome data and the merged data set in Table 7, where for purposes of comparison we also show the parallel analyses for the study on intellectual disability just reported.
Table 7: [missing]
Sociability and schooling
The answers to these questions are clearly affirmative in the case of sociability. We note first that in analysis of Down Syndrome data, grade level made a difference to mean sociability scores (eight-year-olds M 11.69; eleven-year-olds M 12.31), but country and gender had no effect. In other words, the greater sociability of Spanish children that we found towards children with intellectual disability disappears when attitudes of Spanish and Irish children towards children with Down Syndrome are compared. In terms of our interest in contrasting attitudes towards intellectual disability and Down Syndrome, we found that children were more sociable towards a child with Down Syndrome than towards a child with intellectual disability, though this difference depended on interactions described below. Comparative means and standard deviations of main effects and interactions are presented, beginning with Table 8.
Table 8: Summaries of (un-)sociability in the cases of both data sets by levels of database, nation, gender, grade, database by nation, and gender by database by nation.
Variable ValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population12.182.13439DATABASEIntellectual disability12.302.13239DATABASEDown Syndrome12.052.13200NATIONIreland12.742.12244NATIONSpain11.491.95195GENDERMale12.522.32211GENDERFemale11.871.90228GRADEEight11.972.02193GRADEEleven12.352.21246DATABASEIntellectual disability12.302.13239NATIONIreland13.142.06129NATIONSpain11.311.76110DATABASEDown Syndrome12.052.13200NATIONIreland12.302.10115NATIONSpain11.722.1585GENDERMale12.522.32211DATABASEIntellectual disability13.102.3399DATABASEDown Syndrome12.012.19112GENDERMale12.522.32211NATIONIreland13.232.32115NATIONSpain11.672.0296GENDERFemale11.871.90228DATABASEIntellectual disability11.731.78140DATABASEDown Syndrome12.102.0788GENDERFemale11.871.90228NATIONIreland12.301.82129NATIONSpain11.311.8799Total cases = 439
The interaction effects involving the database imply that mean scores for attitudes differed in the sample responding to questions concerning a child with intellectual disability as compared to the sample responding to questions about a child with Down Syndrome. There were interactions between database (intellectual disability or Down Syndrome data) and nationality, database (intellectual disability or Down Syndrome data) and gender, and between nationality and gender. Each of these interaction effects derives from differences in the intellectual disability data. The database–nationality interaction was due to a greater difference between the Spanish and Irish pupils in regard to their social attitudes towards a child with intellectual disability as compared to their social attitudes towards a child with Down Syndrome. Post-hoc Schaffé contrasts of this interaction showed that Irish pupils were less sociable towards a pupil with intellectual disability than towards a pupil with Down Syndrome and also less sociable than the Spanish pupils were to either group (intellectual disability or Down Syndrome). We note, however, that Spanish and Irish children’s attitudes towards Down Syndrome did not differ, and further that the Spanish children’s attitudes towards intellectual disability were not different from their attitudes to Down Syndrome. The database gender interaction arose because boys were less sociable than girls towards a child with intellectual disability. Post-hoc contrasts of the database–gender interaction showed that the boys’ social attitudes towards a pupil with intellectual disability were less sociable than girls’ attitudes, and also less sociable than boys’ and girls’ attitudes towards a pupil with Down Syndrome. The nationality–gender interaction depended on the interaction shown earlier in the case of attitudes towards intellectual disability and was due entirely to the strong unsociable sentiments of Irish boys in the intellectual disability data. These sentiments did not hold in the case of Down Syndrome, where boys and girls had virtually identical mean sociability scores in each national sample (Ireland: boys M 12.26, girls M 12.32; Spain: boys M 11.72, girls M 11.72).
While we noted earlier that there were no general differences between Irish and Spanish pupils in their perception of schooling and integration for pupils with intellectual disability, there were differences in the case of Down Syndrome (Table 9). This difference was robust and did not depend on the nationality by grade level interaction for the Down Syndrome data; post-hoc examination of means showed that this arose because the Irish eight-year-old pupils were significantly more favourably disposed towards integrated schooling than the Spanish eight-year-old pupils, or less aware of the difficulties. The scores of the Irish and Spanish eleven-year-olds were very similar.
Table 9: Summaries of attitudes towards inclusion for Down Syndrome data (only), nation by grade.
For entire population7.521.68203NATIONIreland7.311.63118GRADEEight6.981.2858GRADEEleven7.621.8760NATIONSpain7.811.7285GRADEEight8.261.8727GRADEEleven7.601.6258Total cases = 203
Pupils perceived greater difficulties in educating a pupil with intellectual disability versus a pupil with Down Syndrome in an integrated classroom (Table 10); Irish pupils were less aware of problems with integration than Spanish pupils; younger pupils were more wary of integration than older pupils, and boys more wary than girls. These significant differences depend on the interactions database by gender, database and grade, and nationality and grade. The difference between Irish and Spanish children overall depended on the views of the younger Spanish pupils, who perceived greater difficulties in integration than the older Spanish pupils and than the younger and older Irish pupils. The database–gender interaction showed that it was the negative attitudes of boys towards the integration of pupils with intellectual disability that contributed strongly to differences in attitude between intellectual disability and Down Syndrome; and the database–grade interaction showed a strong negative influence of younger children towards integration of pupils with intellectual disability.
Table 10: Summaries of attitudes towards inclusion in the cases of both data sets by levels of database.
VariableValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population8.372.00433DATABASEIntellectual disability9.101.95233DATABASEDown Syndrome7.521.69200NATIONIreland8.221.99240NATIONSpain8.562.00193GRADEEight8.752.05189GRADEEleven8.071.90244GENDERMale8.452.00209GENDERFemale8.292.00224GRADEEight8.752.05189DATABASEIntellectual disability9.831.69106DATABASEDown Syndrome7.371.6183GRADEEleven8.071.90244DATABASEIntellectual disability8.491.96127DATABASEDown Syndrome7.621.75117GRADEEight8.752.05189NATIONIreland8.382.00123NATIONSpain9.441.9866GRADEEleven8.071.90244NATIONIreland8.041.96117NATIONSpain8.101.86127DATABASEIntellectual disability9.101.95233GENDERMale9.551.8297GENDERFemale8.781.99136DATABASEDown Syndrome7.521.69200GENDERMale7.511.63112GENDERFemale7.531.7788Total cases = 433
The general pattern reported above for the data on intellectual disability was repeated for the data on Down Syndrome in relation to the use of positive and negative words (Table 11). Only the results for the use of positive words will be reported here since the results for the negative words are very similar, though opposite, to the results for positive words. In relation to Down Syndrome children, Irish pupils (M 3.45) used significantly more positive words than Spanish pupils (M 2.72); there was no gender difference as there had been in the case of intellectual disability, but there was a difference between eight-year-olds (M 3.69) and eleven-year-olds (M 2.75). Children used more positive words to describe the child with Down Syndrome than a child with intellectual disability. All of these four main effects were robust in the sense that they did not depend on the interaction effects tracing out ways in which these variables influence each other.
Table 11: Summaries of use of positive adjectives in the cases of both data sets by levels of database, nation, gender, grade, database by grade, database by gender, and nation by gender by grade.
Variable ValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population2.971.55439DATABASEIntellectual disability2.851.55239DATABASEDown Syndrome3.131.54200NATIONIreland3.211.53244NATIONSpain2.681.53195GENDERMale2.651.60211GENDERFemale3.281.44228GRADEEight3.201.61193GRADEEleven2.801.48246DATABASEIntellectual disability2.851.55239GRADEEight2.851.67110GRADEEleven2.851.45129DATABASEDown Syndrome3.131.54200GRADEEight3.671.4283GRADEEleven2.741.51117DATABASEIntellectual disability2.851.55239GENDERMale2.231.6099GENDERFemale3.281.36140DATABASEDown Syndrome3.131.54200GENDERMale3.021.52112GENDERFemale3.271.5588GENDERMale2.651.60211GRADEEight2.691.6495GRADEEleven2.611.58116GENDERFemale3.281.44228GRADEEight3.691.4298GRADEEleven2.961.37130NATIONIreland3.211.53244GENDERMale2.761.65115GRADEEight2.601.6860GRADEEleven2.931.6255GENDERFemale3.621.28129GRADEEight3.981.1666GRADEEleven3.241.3063NATIONSpain2.681.53195GENDERMale2.521.5496GRADEEight2.861.5935GRADEEleven2.331.4961GENDERFemale2.831.5199GRADEEight3.091.7332GRADEEleven2.701.3867DATABASEIntellectual disability2.851.55239GENDERMale2.231.6099GRADEEight1.901.4849GRADEEleven2.561.6650GENDERFemale3.281.36140GRADEEight3.611.4161GRADEEleven3.031.2879DATABASEDown Syndrome3.131.54200GENDERMale3.021.52112GRADEEight3.541.3846GRADEEleven2.651.5266GENDERFemale3.271.5588GRADEEight3.841.4637GRADEEleven2.861.5051Total cases = 439
There were interactions between the database (intellectual disability or Down Syndrome) and gender; between database and grade; between gender and grade; between database–gender and grade; and between nation–gender and grade. The boys used less positive words than girls in the case of intellectual disability, whereas there was less difference between them in the case of Down Syndrome. Post-hoc comparisons showed that boys in their judgements on intellectual disability were less positive than girls in relation to intellectual disability and to either boys or girls in regard to Down Syndrome. The eight-year-olds and eleven-year-olds used identical numbers of positive adjectives in the case of intellectual disability, whereas in the case of Down Syndrome younger children used more positive words than older children and more than their peers in the case of intellectual disability. The gender by grade interaction showed that the eight-year-old girls used more positive words than their peers; and the database-gender by grade interaction showed that both boys and girls used fewer positive adjectives when they were older whether they were describing Down Syndrome or intellectual disability, except in the case of intellectual disability where the older boys used more positive adjectives. The nationality by gender by grade interaction signalled that the tendency for older children to use fewer positive words held in each gender-grade combination except the Irish eleven-year-old pupils, who used more positive words than the eight-year-old Irish pupils. The eight-year-old Irish girls were the highest users of positive words.
Finally in this analysis we turn to the significant nationality by grade interaction in the use of sensitive words to describe the child with Down Syndrome (Table 12). Again post-hoc Scheffé contrasts show that this is due to the difference between the older Spanish and Irish children. However, in this case the direction of change is reversed. Now the older Spanish children use these sensitive words more frequently than the younger children, and the older Irish children use them less frequently than the younger Irish children. In the comparison of the images of intellectual disability and Down Syndrome we find a reversal of this trend: the older Irish children tend to use these sensitive words for children with intellectual disability, whereas the older Spanish children use these words more for children with Down Syndrome.
Table 12: Summaries of use of ‘sad, lonely and unhappy’ in the cases of both data sets by levels of gender, and database by nation by grade.
Variable ValueLabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population1.111.10439GENDERMale1.201.06211GENDERFemale1.031.13228DATABASEIntellectual disability1.221.12239NATIONIreland1.401.15129GRADEEight1.261.1570GRADEEleven1.581.1359NATIONSpain1.001.04110GRADEEight1.201.0940GRADEEleven0.891.0070DATABASEDown Syndrome0.991.07200NATIONIreland0.90.97115GRADEEight1.051.0256GRADEEleven0.760.9259NATIONSpain1.091.1885GRADEEight0.630.9727GRADEEleven1.311.2258Total cases = 439
The data on Down Syndrome provide a number of interesting contrasts to the earlier data on intellectual disability. First, Spanish pupils had been found to be more sociable than Irish pupils towards a child with intellectual disability: however, here Spanish and Irish pupils did not differ from each other in regard to their social attitudes towards a child with Down Syndrome. Also the two samples of Spanish pupils did not differ from one another in their attitude to Down Syndrome as compared to intellectual disability. This is consistent with the view that the image of intellectual disability in the minds of the Irish pupils was more severe, but was more varied in the minds of the Spanish pupils. The image that Irish pupils have of the child with intellectual disability may be negative and unsociable for a number of reasons. It may be that it was an unspecified, unknown and possibly severe form of intellectual disability that led to the essentially negative social reaction of the Irish pupils. If this is so, it is important to note. It may also be that the Spanish pupils have a more varied view of intellectual disability because of the changes implemented in the Spanish system since 1985.
The possible influence of the Spanish integration project on the feasibility of inclusion as described in these data is interesting. The younger Spanish children were far more reticent about inclusion of a Down Syndrome child than their Irish peers. Generally in these studies older children tend to be more open to inclusion when the target is a child with intellectual disability handicap (e.g. Gash 1993; Gash and Coffey 1995). It may be the case that the Irish children are more sympathetic to Down Syndrome and less experienced. In Gash 1993 reference was made to the spontaneous goodwill expressed on this type of questionnaire by inexperienced Irish children towards a child with intellectual disability. This goodwill may be what lies behind the greater use of positive adjectives by Irish children in their descriptions of both a child with intellectual disability and a child with Down Syndrome.
Taking this further, in Study 1 we argued that Spanish children, through their experience, might learn by the end of primary school that pupils with intellectual disability are not sad, lonely and unhappy. In the present study on Down Syndrome, arguing again on the greater awareness of the Spanish pupils, we find that their image of Down Syndrome children at the end of primary school is indeed one of sadness, loneliness and unhappiness. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of the situation is a moot point. It may be that this says something very important about the pupils themselves and their relation to Down Syndrome children. A recent study made observations of the Irish experience of Down Syndrome children in integrated educational contexts (Bennett et al. 1998). In one school each morning there was an optional set-dancing class for interested pupils. One of the pupils with Down Syndrome who was ten years old at the time had ceased coming to the dancing class because she had noticed that the other children were becoming reluctant to dance with her. It may well be that the older Spanish children are more aware of rejection of some children with Down Syndrome in their age group.
It has long been known that attitudes to minority groups can be changed positively under appropriate conditions (e.g. Stephan 1985). It is most encouraging that in this sample the Spanish educational system has succeeded in promoting sociability towards children with intellectual disability in their school system. It is to be hoped that this finding is generalised in Spain because children with learning difficulties are often not well received in schools (Ochoa and Olivarez 1995).
The validity study
The research described in the first two studies has used questionnaires to assess children’s attitudes. A frequently unexamined assumption in questionnaire research of this type is the relation between children’s attitudes expressed on the questionnaire and their actual behaviour. Teachers frequently express the opinion that children are strongly influenced by social desirability in responding. This attitude may lead some to question the value of using questionnaires to assess children’s attitudes. The present investigation was designed partly to assess the usefulness of this questionnaire and also as a tool to assess the effects of experience of integration on children’s attitudes towards physical and intellectual disability in primary schools. Prior to the summer holidays two Dublin schools anticipated having a new included sixth class in September. A girl with a physical disability was to come to one school and a boy with Down Syndrome was to come to the other school. Both the process of integration and the questionnaire itself are evaluated here through use of qualitative and quantitative methods.
Questionnaires were given to all fifth-class children in the two urban schools in the summer term, and to the same children about nine months later just before Easter. Each school had more than one classroom at these grade levels and it was not known which would be the integrated class in each school until the school year began. In September, between these two assessments, a girl with a physical disability came to the girls’ school and a boy with Down Syndrome came to the boys’ school. The teachers who taught these integrated classes were interviewed after the school year had ended about their experiences during the year in their integrated class.
Pre-test and post-test questionnaires for children were matched for the data analysis. The matched sample in the girls’ school consisted of 44 control children and 18 ‘integrated’ children, and that in the boys’ school comprised 28 control children and 30 ‘integrated’ children. (A few children were missing on either pre-test or post-test dates.)
The questionnaire used on the pre-test and the post-test was identical to that described earlier in this chapter except that references to physical disability replaced references to intellectual disability in the case of the girls’ school.
The attitudinal variables
Attitudinal variables were created with these data on the basis of factor analyses portraying aspects of sociability and views on schooling. In addition, variables were constructed from descriptive words by creating a score based on the number of words used in categories such as positive, negative and sensitive. On account of the different foci of these questionnaires (physical disability, Down Syndrome) results were analysed separately for girls and boys. Changes in the pupils’ scores of five different measures (sociability, schooling, and use of positive, negative and sensitive words) were examined from pre-test to post-test. Repeated measures (pre-test and post-test) analysis of covariance[Note 3] was used with experience/inexperience of intellectual/physical disability as covariate because this variable had been shown to influence children’s answers in previous studies. Means are reported in Table 13 for girls and Table 14 for boys.
The first factor was about schooling. Items loading on this were about the child with intellectual or physical disability being able to do the same maths (item 12), reading (item 13) and hobbies (item 14) as the other children, and the three items about schooling (16 to 18). Items 17 and 18 were recoded (1=2; 2=1), as in the other studies. In other words, low scores on this variable imply an acceptance of total integration and of the ability of the child with intellectual disability to cope in ordinary classrooms. The reliability of each scale was assessed using Cronbach’s α which was 0.69 for this variable (0.68 for boys, 0.71 for girls).
In the case of attitudes towards physical disability, girls changed their ideas about schooling from pre-test to post-test (F(1,61) = 20.59, ppSave Selection
Table 13: Pre-test and post-test means and standard deviations in girls’ attitudes towards physical disability.
Attitude to schoolingVariable LabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population pre-test7.521.8164CONDITIONControl pre-test7.411.6244CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test7.752.2020For entire population post-test6.410.7564CONDITIONControl post-test6.270.7944CONDITIONIntegrated post-test6.700.5720Sociability for girlsFor entire population pre-test9.411.5664CONDITIONControl pre-test9.521.6244CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test9.151.4220For entire population post-test7.861.9264CONDITIONControl post-test7.612.1244CONDITIONIntegrated post-test8.401.2720Girls’ use of positive wordsFor entire population pre-test3.051.5264CONDITIONControl pre-test2.931.5344CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test3.301.4920For entire population post-test3.481.4564CONDITIONControl post-test3.301.5044CONDITIONIntegrated post-test3.901.2520Girls’ use of sensitive wordsFor entire population pre-test0.971.1064CONDITIONControl pre-test0.861.0744CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test1.201.1520For entire population post-test0.470.8564CONDITIONControl post-test0.450.7044CONDITIONIntegrated post-test0.501.1520
The second factor dealing with sociability towards the child with an intellectual or physical disability was made up of items based on the following dispositions: a willingness to smile at him/her (item 1), to sit beside him/her (item 2), to chat to him/her (item 3), to tell secrets to him/her (item 4), to have him/her as a best friend (item 5), to invite him/her home (item 6) or to a birthday party (item 8), to include him/her on their team (item 9), to be concerned if he/she were teased (item 11), and (not) to be upset if he/she broke the rules of a game (item 7, which was recoded). Recall that on all attitudinal items ‘yes’ scores one and ‘no’ scores two: low scores therefore imply a greater disposition to sociability. The internal consistency of this scale for this sample was unacceptably low (0.31), so the scale was refined for boys and girls separately, subtracting items to increase α. An α of 0.61 was obtained with items 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 11 for boys, and an α of 0.52 was obtained for items 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9 for girls. We created separate variables for girls and boys by adding scores together on these items.
In the case of girls’ attitudes towards physical disability there were increases in sociability from pre-test to post-test (F(1,61) = 26.50, pppSave Selection
The descriptive variables
These variables were created as described in previous studies. The positive terms were as follows: clever, kind, friendly, lovable and happy; Cronbach’s α was 0.70 for the sample (boys 0.68; girls 0.71). The negative words were: dirty, stupid, untidy, bold, dumb, rough, spa, crazy, geek, thick, simple, scary, dork, retarded, moron, twit, freak, idiot and nerd. Removing the words ‘simple’ and ‘retarded’ from this list boosted Cronbach’s α to 0.78 for the sample (boys 0.73; girls 0.85). Finally, the sensitive words were: special, sad, lonely, ashamed and unhappy. Removing the word ‘special’ from this list brought Cronbach’s α to 0.61 (boys 0.60; girls 0.62).
Boys describing a Down Syndrome pupil increased in their use of negative words from pre-test to post-test (F(1,55) = 29.16, pppSave Selection
Table 14: Pre-test and post-test means and standard deviations in boys’ attitudes towards Down Syndrome.
Attitude to schoolingVariable LabelMeanStd Dev.CasesFor entire population pre-test7.171.6358CONDITIONControl pre-test7.141.7828CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test7.201.5230For entire population post-test8.211.9658CONDITIONControl post-test8.501.9528CONDITIONIntegrated post-test7.931.9630Sociability for boysFor entire population pre-test7.881.5058CONDITIONControl pre-test8.181.6828CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test7.601.2830For entire population post-test9.282.0258CONDITIONControl post-test9.611.2328CONDITIONIntegrated post-test8.972.5330Boys’ use of negative wordsFor entire population pre-test0.721.3658CONDITIONControl pre-test1.071.5128CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test0.401.1330For entire population post-test3.574.3558CONDITIONControl post-test3.434.4128CONDITIONIntegrated post-test3.704.3630Boys’ use of positive wordsFor entire population pre-test2.281.5458CONDITIONControl pre-test1.931.4628CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test2.601.5730For entire population post-test1.521.6258CONDITIONControl post-test1.541.6228CONDITIONIntegrated post-test1.501.6630Boys’ use of sensitive wordsFor entire population pre-test1.331.2158CONDITIONControl pre-test1.541.3228CONDITIONIntegrated pre-test1.131.0730For entire population post-test0.860.9358CONDITIONControl post-test0.890.8328CONDITIONIntegrated post-test0.831.0230
Girls describing a pupil with physical disability increased in their use of positive words from pre-test to post-test (F(1,61) = 5.29, ppSave Selection
The teacher of the integrated class in the boys’ school explained that he had 39 boys in his class. This is a large number by any standards. At the beginning of the year he told his pupils that Mike (not his real name) was a boy with Down Syndrome coming to their classroom; he spoke to the pupils about ways they might relate to Mike, and how he was different. For about one month there were no major problems, then some boys in a remedial group started to make things difficult. There were problems in a number of areas: Mike was taught some bad language; when the boys lined up to leave the room, Mike often wanted to be first in line and the others became less willing to allow this as time went on; in football games the others cooperated to allow Mike to play for about five minutes, and then he was ignored; finally, his manner of speaking was mocked. These problems did not seem to affect him as much as the teacher feared. At times Mike was upset, though mostly for little things like not being lent an eraser or a pencil sharpener. The boys would sometimes urge Mike to dance, which he did willingly but clumsily. This was malicious on the boys’ part, but when Mike noticed them mocking him he seemed to interpret it as applause. He even bowed in thanks, and this infuriated the others! The teacher felt that it might have been easier to integrate Mike if he had arrived earlier into the school, and if the whole school had been involved in his inclusion. However, in spite of these difficulties the teacher reported that Mike’s mother had learned important coping skills, and she was pleased with what Mike had learned. At the end of the year he moved on to a local comprehensive school.
In the girls’ school the teacher of the integrated class talked about Susan (not her real name) to the fifth classes in June. She spoke about her primarily as a new girl, though her physical disability was mentioned in terms of her needing help on the stairs. Susan had a strong personality and did not like to be too dependent on others. When she fell she preferred to get up herself, and the girls rapidly learned to let her be independent. The teacher was surprised at how quickly the girls accepted her. Susan used to lend the girls her crutches and she laughed with them at their efforts to use them at break time. When Susan did need help on the stairs, the girls helped her without being prompted by teachers. Also, the girls found ways to include her in their activities. When they played rounders, she bowled and was given a chair so that she could do this. In many ways the school was unsuitable; it had stairs that had to be negotiated with some pain each day and which may have caused Susan physical problems. She came to the school to join a sixth class, which is late, and she also changed home at the same time, moving to the school’s locality. This was partly so as to be near a suitable secondary school. Her experiences in this school were significantly better than they had been in her previous school, where she was sometimes teased and mocked.
The most striking feature of these results is the difference between the experience of integration in the girls’ school and in the boys’ school. Secondly, these results provide strong support for the validity of the questionnaire as a measure of children’s attitudes. In the case of the girls’ school there were a number of positive effects, not specific to the integration class. Over the period of the study the girls became more positive about inclusion of children with a physical disability; they became more positive socially, particularly in the unintegrated classroom; and they used more positive words to describe a child with a physical disability.
In the case of the boys’ school the differences between pre-test and post-test were in the opposite direction. On the post-test the boys used more negative words, fewer positive words, saw more difficulties with inclusive education, and were less sociable. This picture was confirmed by the qualitative data based on the teacher interview. In previous studies boys have shown more negative attitudes (e.g. Gash 1993; 1996). It is clear that in the present study these negative attitudes increased.
Finally, there was a decrease in use of sensitive words in both boys’ and girls’ samples. The children in each school seem to have learned not to think of these different pupils as sad, lonely, ashamed and unhappy. This is in itself encouraging and shows that at least the experiences in each school follow the advice of Lewis and Lewis (1987), namely that there is a need to avoid stereotyping of children with special educational needs, such as learning to think of them as helpless and in need of babying.
This study also highlights the need to prepare carefully for integration. There are a series of well-documented steps that schools ought to follow prior to integrating pupils with special needs. These include explaining the new situation to all staff and pupils because the attitudes of the staff and pupils especially have implications for the success of integration.
An evaluation of integration at second level
There are a series of primary schools in Ireland now with special classes, and increasingly there are pupils with special needs who attend primary school and are included in ordinary classrooms. The Report of the Special Education Review Committee (Ireland 1993; hereafter referred to as SERC) provides information about the numbers of pupils with different disabilities who receive their education in special schools and in special classes in ordinary schools, and a survey was undertaken to find out how many pupils with special needs were in ordinary classes. SERC reported that at that time there were nine special classes in ordinary National Schools for pupils with moderate intellectual disability, with an enrolment of 81. Data for the evaluation reported here were collected in the academic year 1993–4. There are few opportunities for children with moderate intellectual disability to be guaranteed a place in second-level schools. This is an issue being vigorously addressed in Spain at present. In Ireland at this time it seems that it is being dealt with informally between parents and schools rather than formally. More recently it has moved to the courts. In the present case a class of pupils with moderate intellectual disability moved to a second-level school in a small town in Ireland and so became the first special class at this secondary school. This was the first time this had happened in Ireland. It was possible to give the incoming group of ordinary pupils this questionnaire in September and then again in May to assess the effects of the experience of integration on these pupils. In some ways the present study was like the previous validation study, but in this case the purpose of the study was simply to check on the experience.
The questionnaire was administered to the incoming class of second-level pupils. They were asked to use the questionnaire bearing in mind that it had been designed for primary pupils and so they might not find some questions entirely appropriate for their age level. Fifty-three pupils (44 boys and nine girls) completed the questionnaire on pre-test and post-test.
The same methods of analysis were used as before (analysis of covariance with repeated measures on the same five dependent variables and using experience of intellectual disability as the covariate). There were significant differences between pre-test and post-test scores on sociability (F(1,50) = 10.00, ppSave Selection
These results provide reassuring quantitative evidence of the success of this integration experience at second level. The change in the mean sociability scores, showing clear improvements in the levels of sociability from pre-test to post-test, is most encouraging. Similarly the decrease in the sensitivity score is welcome and provides reassurance. We note that decreases in frequency of the words ‘sad, lonely and unhappy’ during the year by the pupils show that the level of use of these words in September had halved by the end of the school year. This is a most encouraging sign. The informal evidence has also been supportive of the success of this experience and this special class continues in this secondary school at the time of writing.
A qualitative approach to perception of down syndrome in ireland and spain
Following on from the use of the present questionnaire in research in Ireland and Spain, a study on Down Syndrome was undertaken using an open rather than a closed approach. The purpose of the investigation was to further our understanding of two main dimensions in this questionnaire: (1) the ways in which children in each country think about socialising with Down Syndrome children, and (2) how children think about the inclusion of children with Down Syndrome in class at school. Eleven-year-old children were asked to write answers to questions about this in essay format. This age group was chosen as it corresponded to the highest age in Spanish primary schools. The first question was: ‘Do you think children with Down Syndrome should attend ordinary schools?’ A second question, asked only in Spain, was: ‘What do you know about Down Syndrome children?’ The third question was: ‘If you know someone with Down Syndrome, how do you feel about relating with him or her?’ In Spain one class in each of three schools participated; two schools (A and C) were integrated and one (B) was not. In Ireland one class in each of two unintegrated schools participated. There were approximately 25 pupils in each of the five classes sampled.
Generally there were three types of answers to the first question about integration: social reasons, principles and educational reasons. The social reasons included reference to the system of relations, together with positive and negative consequences. Principles and beliefs were either positive or negative valuations of the difference between Down Syndrome children and others. There were three types of educational reasons mentioned: limitations in regard to learning, reference to academic benefits in special educational opportunities, and reference to benefits in ordinary educational contexts.
There were five categories of answer to the question: ‘What do you know about children with Down Syndrome?’ There were the representations of a sick person, of someone less intelligent, of someone deformed physically, of someone kind-hearted or friendly, and of a clumsy person.
There were four major categories in response to the third question about how the pupils feel about social relations with Down Syndrome children. There were expressions of pity and sadness, the idea that feelings should not be different in relation to a child with Down Syndrome, feelings of satisfaction for helping a child with Down Syndrome together with feelings of personal growth in developing a relationship with a child with Down Syndrome, and finally the recognition of feelings of discomfort in oneself or in others.
Question 1: ‘Do you think that children with Down Syndrome should go to ordinary schools?’
Category 1. Social reasons. Subcategory 1.1. Systems of relations.
Positive consequencesNegative consequences‘If they went to ordinary schools they could communicate with the other children’ 7a[Note 4]‘They should go to a special school because otherwise they would be teased’ 9*‘Because they could relate to all the others’ 15a, 19a, 3c, 4c, 15c, 17c, 21*, 42*, 43*‘They could not make friends in an ordinary school’ 9b‘Yes because they are great fun’ 6*‘If they went to a special school they would feel better and have friends like themselves’ 2*, 5*‘Yes because there is no need for them to be treated differently, or teased’ 15*, 16*, 23*, 41*, 46*‘Yes they should go to ordinary schools, otherwise they would feel excluded’ 29*, 38*
The benefits seen for integrated education in ordinary schools for children with Down Syndrome were made by only certain pupils in the Spanish schools A and C and some Irish pupils (indicated thus *). Not one pupil in school B gave a response that could be classified in this subcategory. In the same way we notice that pupils from school B and some Irish pupils give the negative consequences. As you can see in the description given of the different schools in Spain, it is schools A and C that have the best reputation for the quality of teaching and educational practice. The essays of the Irish pupils (indicated*) in this category reflect their position against exclusion and show that they are very positive about inclusive education because this type of education will avoid children with Down Syndrome feeling different. The positive consequences cited by Spanish pupils from schools A and C were mainly about relations between children and about communication.
Category 1. Social reasons. Subcategory 1.2. Systems of emotion and effect.
Positive consequencesNegative consequences‘One can give them more affection’ 5a‘The other children insult them all the time’ 18b‘They are treated better’ 19a‘They would be intimidated and alone’ 19b‘They have more friends’ 11a, 16b‘If they went to an ordinary class they would be teased’ 19*, 28*, 32*‘They can be helped to learn for life’ 13*, 21*, 49*
Again Spanish pupils from school B and some Irish pupils gave the negative consequences. No pupil from schools A and C gave negative comments. On the contrary, the Spanish pupils from schools A and C maintained a position respecting the inclusion of children with Down Syndrome in ordinary schools. On this basis one can say that they value positively the inclusion of Down Syndrome children in ordinary classes because they are treated better there, and because they can be cared for by the other children.
Category 2. Principles and beliefs.
Subcategory 2.1 Positive value placed on the differenceSubcategory 2.2 Negative value placed on the difference‘They are our equals, they are like us’ 14a, 22a, 12a, 15a, 16a, 17a, 20a, 10*, 12*, 13*, 15*, 17*, 18*, 23*, 26*, 30*, 40*, 44*, 45*‘They are not like us and so they should go to schools specially for them’ 21a, 2b, 7b, 12b, 21b‘They are people, not extraterrestrials’ 14c‘It should be that the others should be sick like him. Since they are sick they can’t relate to their friends’ 15b‘They are not sick’ 12a‘They are like us, though they have this horrible sickness’ 18a‘They are like us though they have this grave defect’ 4a, 4*, 35*‘They are like us though some people might be afraid of them’ 50*‘I think that they themselves ought to decide which school to go to’ 14*, 31*, 36*
Again we note that the positive comments come from the same schools (A and C). All the negative comments come from school B. It is interesting to note that no Irish pupil made a negative comment about the difference.
Category 3. Educational reasons.
Subcategory 3.1: Limitations in relation to learningSubcategory 3.2: Academic benefits in special education contextsSubcategory 3.3: Academic benefits in ordinary school contexts‘They are not capable of the school work’ 17b‘They need a special school, if in an ordinary school there are not teachers who can teach them, it is better they go to a school specially for them’ 13a, 22*‘In an ordinary school one can teach them and they will learn more and better’ 1a, 5a, 6a, 3c, 4c, 10c, 18c, 9*, 28*‘They could not do the work, they would complain about being left behind because they need a great deal of attention’ 14b, 8*‘In a special school the teachers have more patience to teach them’ 26b‘Although they need more things explained they should go to ordinary schools’ 17a, 7*, 37*‘They do not understand anything’ 11*‘They need special schools with specialist teachers who know how to teach them. If they go to ordinary schools the teachers do not know how to treat them’ 1b, 3b, 25b, 6c‘They should go to a special school because in the ordinary class the teacher can not give them enough attention’ 1*, 33*‘They could share their teaching between a special school and an ordinary classroom’ 24b
The limitations to learning are only mentioned by the pupils in school B and by some Irish pupils. No responses occur in this category from schools A and C. If we look at the ideas expressed in Subcategory 3.2 on the benefits of special schools for children with Down Syndrome, they are largely expressed by pupils from school B and some Irish pupils (*). There are only two pupils – one from school A and the other from school C – who mention the benefits of a special school. (There were 22 pupils sampled from school A and 18 from school B.)
Question 2 (Spanish sample only): ‘What do you know about children with Down Syndrome?’
Category I: Image of a sick personCategory II: Image of a less intelligent personCategory III: Image of physical deformityCategory IV: Image of an affectionate person Category V: Image of clumsiness‘They are children who unfortunately suffer a disease which makes them different from others’ 1b‘They are less intelligent’ 3b, 20b, 8c‘They are sick, they have bad eyes, nostrils, and arms...’ 15b‘Although it is difficult to understand them, they never have bad intentions’ 9a‘At times they shout because they can’t help it, for me they are good friends’ 4c‘They are sick in the head, they have not developed, they are missing something, bodily or mentally’ 6b‘They do not understand things or how to reason’ 9b, 18c, 16c, 10c, 7a‘They always have their mouths open’ 16b‘They are really friendly, they like a lot to be with people’ 13a‘They do things without thinking if what is going to happen is good or not’ 6c‘They are born with a particular difficulty’ 2b‘Those who are 20 years old have the intelligence of a 7 year old’ 19b‘They are a little deformed and should be in special schools’ 18b‘During the recreation they are good and bright, I like them a lot’ 1c‘Lots of times they do not know what they are doing’ 16a, 18a‘They are born with a problem, they say with a defect, the mother smoked or drank..., they needed air at birth’ 7b, 12b, 13b, 25b‘They are not children that one can teach easily’ 26b‘They do not have a well formed face’ 20b‘They seem really nice to me, they do not talk much, but when you are near them they are kind’ 2c‘They are a little deficient, they have a handicap’ 10b 23b‘They are a little more retarded than we are’ 17c‘They find it hard to walk and talk easily’ 21b‘Although nearly no one understands well what they say, they are better than other children without Down Syndrome’ 3c‘They do not know that they do, they do not manage their hands feet or head well...’ 18b‘These kids behave better than normal ones’ 7c‘Their behaviour is playful and friendly’ 14c
The pupils from school B make all the comments about children with Down Syndrome being sick or physically deformed. These data are consistent with the tendency we have noted of the negative representations of pupils in this school.
In the same way, the fourth category of comments reflecting the image of the child with Down Syndrome as a friendly or affectionate person all come from schools A and C; none of these positive comments are made by pupils from school B. Categories two and five contain comments from each of the three Spanish schools, though the numbers of responses from A and C are relatively low in each case.
Question 3: ‘If you know someone with Down Syndrome, how do you feel when you relate with them?’
Category I. Emergence of feelings of sadness and pity‘I feel a little sadness and pity’ 2a, 8a, 14a, 16a, 20a, 21a, 22a, 2b, 12b, 17b, 22b, 24b, 4c,11c‘You feel sadness for them and want to help, but most of the time you can’t’ 6a‘Sadness, because these children are not like others but certain persons treat them badly and this should not be like this, because I think they should be treated the same as others’ 12a, 17a‘It makes me sad that in other ordinary schools they are not accepted as normal children, also because some people reject them’ 7cCategory II. Non-emergence of different feelings in the context of a child with Down Syndrome ‘They can participate in all activities like others’ 2*, 12*, 17* 16b, 23b‘I like to be with them because they are not different’ 5*, 15*, 33*, 37*‘I do not mind playing with them, it is all the same to me’ 6*, 11*, 17*, 38*, 24b, 13c, 14c‘I do not feel tense, it is a person like any other, there is no reason to feel uncomfortable’ 9*, 17c‘They are normal, so I like to play with them’ 10*, 18*‘I would not mind, we can learn from each other’ 13*‘I would not mind, although I need to have a little more patience’ 32*‘I feel good, it is the same as if one was with another child’ 7a, 11a, 16b, 23b‘I feel the same as for any person, like any companion close to me. I play with them and talk...’ 2c‘I do not feel anything in particular if I am with him what I do is treat him well, you have to be happy, I also feel happy to be able to be with him’ 3aCategory III. Emergence of feelings of satisfaction for help and self-development for building a relationship‘I believe you have to play with them, otherwise one could not be friends’ 19*‘If a child with Down Syndrome asks you to play, you have to let him, it is good that they play with us’ 21*, 34*, 35*, 36*‘I have played a number of times with a child with Down Syndrome. If my friends tease me I do not care. It is good to know them’ 22*, 30*, 44*‘If we play with them we can know them more and tell our friends that there are not any problems. If we do this, these children can come to know more people’ 23*, 46*‘If when I play with a child with Down Syndrome others tease me, I feel bad and cross because they are very inconsiderate’ 26*, 28*, 42*, 43*‘It does not bother me to interact with them, people should be treated equally. If I have a friend with Down Syndrome and if he is teased I would help him’ 29*, 47*‘I like to have relations with them and share their problems. If they are teased I would try to help’ 31*‘I would like to be their friend because there are others who are cruel’ 40*‘I feel a little more happiness, because I think that to help, is to make companionship’ 3cCategory IV. Emergence of feelings of discomfort in them and others‘I feel uncomfortable, although I could go to their birthday, or shopping, or to their house...’ 1*‘I feel uncomfortable, but that is all right’ 3*‘I feel quite uncomfortable’ 7*‘I do not mind, but others can feel uncomfortable’ 25*‘It is unjust that they should be treated differently, at times I feel uncomfortable, because if I am with them my friends might tease me’ 51*‘I do not mind playing with them or relating with them, but when I am beside them I feel uncomfortable’ 16* 20*
The responses to the question about sociability confirm some of the comments made in earlier studies using the questionnaire. In the series of articles using the questionnaire the first author has made comments in relation to the use of ‘sensitive words’, which is one of the major categories spontaneously used by the Spanish children in this study. The Irish children did not mention sadness in their spontaneous reactions to Down Syndrome children. This is entirely consistent with the nationality–grade interaction mentioned above in the quantitative analysis comparing Spanish and Irish children, where it was the older Spanish children who used the words ‘sad, lonely and unhappy’ with greater frequency than the older Irish children. While the Irish pupils did not feel sadness or pity, they did feel some discomfort while the Spanish pupils did not. So there is a curious balance here between the sadness and pity for the ‘child with Down Syndrome’ experienced by only the Spanish children and the ‘personal’ discomfort and embarrassment felt only by the Irish pupils in the presence of the child with Down Syndrome.
Curiously, too, the Irish children were far more likely to feel satisfaction and to experience self-affirmation for helping a child with Down Syndrome. Both Spanish and Irish children were concerned with equality and with coming to realise that a child with Down Syndrome is like other children in so many ways.
Adults’ attitudes towards integration
The purpose of this research was to investigate the attitudes of adults towards integration of pupils with special needs in ordinary classrooms in Ireland. It was possible to assess the attitudes on this issue of a nationwide representative sample of 501 farmers with 20 or more cattle as part of another ongoing survey.[Note 5] The data were collected by interview. A stratified sampling technique was used, based on the cattle herd size of the farmers questioned. (Details are available from the first author on request.) This survey was undertaken on foot of the SERC report which argued for ‘as much integration as is appropriate and feasible with as little segregation as possible’ (Ireland 1993, 22). The survey asked a number of questions relating to this policy position in order to examine the views of a sample of the general public in relation to this ‘expert view’. Special needs were explained prior to the interview in terms of children who have special requirements for their education. These children have to be treated differently to other children because, for example, they have a physical disability or a mild intellectual disability.
The following questions were asked:
To what extent would you agree with the idea of integrating pupils with special needs like these into ordinary classrooms?Why do you say that? (Interviewees probed but did not prompt.)To what extent would you be happy that the other children would learn to be tolerant of children with special needs if they were integrated into these classrooms?Do you think that special arrangements should be made in the classroom in which children with special needs are placed?Do you think that such classes should have fewer pupils?Do you think that such classes should have a helper to help the teacher?Do you think that parents of ‘ordinary children’ (not those with special needs) need advice on this issue?Why do you say this? (Interviewees probed but did not prompt.)To what extent would you agree with the idea of integrating pupils with Down Syndrome into ordinary classrooms?
A total of 501 farmers completed the interview. Five per cent were under 25, 16% were between 25 and 35 years of age, 35% were between 36 and 49 years of age, 24% were between 50 and 59 years of age, and 19% were over 60. The educational level achieved by the respondents and the number of children they have at various levels of education were noted (see Table 15).
Approximately two thirds of the sample were in favour of integration: this was made up of 21% who said ‘to a great extent’, and 38% ‘to some extent’. Fourteen per cent were not in favour of integration, and 24% were not at all in favour of integration. The respondents were next asked for their reasons for their position. There were quite a variety of reasons expressed which are in many ways comparable to reasons given by the Irish and Spanish children in the qualitative study above. The idea that everyone is equal or that everyone should get the same chance or that children with special needs should not be segregated and made to feel different was mentioned by 23% of the sample. Nearly one fifth of the sample felt that it was good for the children with special needs to learn to compete with the other children in school. Other positive reasons given were: both sets of children can learn from each other (6%); integration helps to get rid of the stigma associated with a disability; it would help children with special needs when they are older; it is good for all children to go to school near their homes; and it would promote awareness of special needs generally. (Percentages below 5% are not given.) The first two negative reasons given were the most frequently given ones: children with special needs would get better attention in a special school (given by 30%); the special needs children might be bullied by the other children (10%); the teacher would have to spend too much time on the special needs children (9%); children with special needs would fall behind the other children (8%); they would hold the other pupils back (9%); children with special needs could be disruptive; and it would be unfair to both sets of children and would not work. A number of parents gave equivocal answers, saying that it would depend on factors such as the severity of the handicap (14%), the teacher, on where the school is situated, on the facilities and on the size of the class. A few said that children could go to both types of school (special and ordinary) at different times depending on their particular needs.
The overwhelming majority of parents felt that pupils would learn to be tolerant of children with special needs if they were integrated – to some extent (47%) or to a great extent (32%). This shows a generally positive attitude in the sample as a whole. However, in terms of the educational provision made for integration, very high proportions of parents also held the view that special arrangements ought to be made in classrooms for integration (84%), that classrooms ought to have fewer pupils (88%), that the classes should have a helper for the teacher (80%), and that the parents of ordinary pupils need advice about integration (77%).
Of the parents who felt that advice was needed, 59% of them felt that integration would be facilitated if the parents understood the situation so that they could help their children to be more tolerant of the child with special needs, 35% felt that there was a need to promote awareness and understanding of integration amongst parents, 8% felt that such awareness would help to prevent bullying, and 7% felt that parents would worry that their children might be held back. Smaller percentages felt that it was important to consult with parents, to make people aware of the difficulties of parents of children with special needs, and that consultation might help parents to become involved in helping children with special needs.
Of the parents who did not perceive a need for advice, 40% felt that most people were aware of the needs of the disabled, 14% felt that it was not a problem for parents, 12% felt that it was not their concern unless it impinged on their child’s education, and 10% felt that it was a mistake to draw too much attention to the child with a disability. Smaller percentages of parents were against advice being given on the grounds that schools ought to advise children, that parents of children with a disability could make their own arrangements, that the government will decide anyway, that such children are better off in special schools, and that information is unnecessary as it will make no difference. A small number felt that advice was not needed because all children ought to have equal access to education and because children with a disability are no different from other children.
Finally, there was a big and statistically significant difference between the willingness of parents to agree to integration in the case of mild intellectual disability (59%) and in the case of Down Syndrome (33%).
This survey of 501 farmers makes a number of points clear. First, the idea of integration is supported by a two-thirds majority in the case of mild intellectual disability. However, support for integration of children with Down Syndrome is only supported by about one third of the sample. Second, about 80% of those sampled said that particular educational recommendations should be made for integration. One can infer that this large proportion is not happy that the present educational arrangements are optimal for integration in our schools. Equally large numbers, in the region of 80%, felt that numbers ought to be lowered and that help should be provided for teachers in this situation. Having documented some of the difficulties in classes in which Down Syndrome children are included (Bennett et al., 1998), we suspect that appropriate educational arrangements such as reduced numbers and help for the teacher might persuade parents that it is possible to provide excellent education for all children in integrated classrooms. Clearly on the basis of these data a high proportion of parents are not satisfied with the present arrangements. Third, the clear division between two-thirds approval for integration in the case of mild intellectual disability and two-thirds disapproval in the case of Down Syndrome suggests that there are serious doubts about the appropriateness of ordinary classes as currently organised as being in the best educational interest of all the children. Since such a large number of these adults (77%) felt that advice was needed about integration, this is an area in which such advice is clearly needed.
This chapter has presented a series of studies designed to examine attitudes towards children with intellectual disability or Down Syndrome and their education. The first two questionnaire-based studies compared Spanish and Irish primary school children, and the second two provided evidence for the validity of the questionnaire as an evaluative instrument. The Spanish children were more sociable towards children with intellectual disability than Irish children. A possible explanation is that integration has been actively promoted by the Spanish Ministry of Education since 1985, whereas in Ireland measures to help primary school teachers with integration were less prominent when these data were collected. In consequence the Spanish children may have had a less ‘severe’ representation of ‘mental handicap’ than did the Irish children in this study. Thus older Spanish children did not see children with intellectual disability as sad, lonely and unhappy because they were more used to them, whereas older Irish children did see children with intellectual disability in these terms.
The second study attempted to overcome this difference and to compare Irish and Spanish children under circumstances in which they would be less likely to have different representations, namely by asking them about their attitudes towards a child with Down Syndrome. In these conditions the difference in sociability between the two national samples disappeared but other interesting differences remained. There were differences between the Irish and Spanish samples in terms of their views on the feasibility of integration arising from the very positive attitudes of the younger Irish children towards integration of children with Down Syndrome, in contrast to the more negative attitudes of their Spanish peers at the same age level.
It may be that experience/inexperience plays a role in explaining these differences, and greater numbers of Spanish children did report knowing a child with Down Syndrome. There was additional evidence for the apparent greater experience of the older Spanish pupils (in contrast to the older Irish pupils) in their greater use of the sensitive words ‘sad, lonely and unhappy’ to describe a child with Down Syndrome, a finding which was reversed in the case of describing a child with intellectual disability. It may take further studies to understand whether these differences between the Spanish and Irish children are based on culture or experience, but for the present these findings provide teachers with some insight into the ways their pupils think about children with intellectual disability and Down Syndrome. It is well known that reduction of hostility and stereotyping depends on long-term contact, institutional sanctions and the organisation of groups with equal status and shared goals (Minuchin and Shapiro 1983). We hope that this work on attitudes will allow helpful insights into the effects of school policies on how children are actually thinking.
The qualitative study of Spanish and Irish pupils indicated a number of dimensions not included on the questionnaire. These included awareness of the benefits of being educated in both ordinary and special schools, and additional images such as those of a sick person, an affectionate person and a clumsy person. There were also differences between the Spanish and Irish pupils in that sadness and pity for children with Down Syndrome were expressed only by Spanish pupils and embarrassment and discomfort were expressed mainly by the Irish pupils. The emergence of feelings of satisfaction for helping a child with Down Syndrome together with feelings of self-development for building a relationship were also expressed far more frequently by Irish pupils. These differences invite a qualitative understanding in the classroom contexts where the data were collected.
Finally, the Irish farmers strongly supported the idea of integration for reasons based on equality and recognition of the need for children with intellectual disability to be challenged in school. Clearly, though, they were not satisfied with the level of help given to teachers who taught integrated classes, and were not convinced that it made educational sense to integrate children with Down Syndrome. We hope that these diverse data will stimulate debate and inform discussion on these fundamental issues in special education. A question to monitor is whether Irish children’s attitudes have changed with increased educational support for children in difficulty.
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There is an ample literature showing that factoring a matrix of phi coefficients is sensitive to differences in difficulty level between items (Hulin et al. 1983; Lord 1980; Hambleton and Swaminathan 1985; Hambleton et al. 1991). Therefore factor analysis was based on the tetracoric correlation matrix. The consistency of test items was analysed first. Coefficient α = 0.68 and analysis of biserial correlations between items and total test score indicated that three items (15, 19 and 20) correlated less than 0.20 with the test and so were excluded from the factor analysis. When these three items were excluded, 47.5% of the variance was explained by two factors: factor 1 was about sociability and social concern, and factor 2 was concerned with schooling.
This form of analysis removes the variation due to ‘experience’ from the analysis. This is important because while we planned to have approximately similar numbers of boys and girls of each grade in the Irish and Spanish samples it would be very difficult to equate the children in terms of their ‘experience’ of intellectual disability.
In this analysis the effects of ‘experience’ are removed before mean differences between groups are compared.
The Spanish schools are identified as a, b and c, and the Irish pupils are identified with an asterisk (*).
Thanks are expressed here to Thomas Healy & Associates for their advice and help in piloting the questions used in the interview and their generosity in collecting the data.
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