PARENTS’ POINT OF VIEW TOWARDS INCLUSIVE AND SPECIAL EDUCATION

PARENTS’ POINT OF VIEW TOWARDS INCLUSIVE AND SPECIAL EDUCATION

SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 2011 2 (25)

ISSN 1392-5369 Specialusis ugdymas. 2011. Nr. 2 (25), 128-142 Special Education. 2011. No. 2 (25), 128-142

PARENTS’ POINT OF VIEW TOWARDS INCLUSIVE AND SPECIAL EDUCATION

Algirdas Alisauskas, Irena Kaffemaniené, Rita Meliené, Lina Milteniené Siauliai University

25 P. Visinskio st. LT-76351 Siauliai, Lithuania

The article deals with research on the educational expedence of pupils with special educational needs based on a parents’ survey assessing the advantages and disadvantages of special and inclusive education in Lithuania. An analysis of the survey results involving 232 parents who were raising school-aged children with special educational needs revealed that, when choosing (changing) the pre- ferred type of education, parents’ decision were predetermined by the essential factors – where will the child’s needs be best met and the highest quality of education provided. Parents assess the best pedagogical assistance is provided by a teacher and (or) special pedagogue. From the parents’ point of view the educational assistance provided at an institutional level is the most insufficiently developed. There is a lack of more intensive support from a psychologist and social pedagogue, and a need for better provision of compensatory technology. Parents of special school pupils prefer the meeting of the child’s needs in leaming and commutiication with teachers and peers and additionally value the possibilities of parents’ communication with teachers in all aspects. In mainstream schools, pupils’ parents emphasise the need for specialists’ (speech therapists, social pedagogues and psychologists) assistance, communication with the school and the need for counselling in issues connected with their child’s education. Higher expectations for pedagogical support in class are expressed.

Keywords; inclusive education, special education, special educational needs.

Introduction

Research problem and relevance. The Law of Education of the Republic of Lithuania and other legal documents’ regulate the activities of educational institutions at vadous levels in detail, when assessing and meeting special educational needs of leamers. The definition of special educa- tional needs (SEN) emphasises the demand for special support adsing due to the leaming needs of a person’s self-education and their mismatch with the educational standards. The concept of special education (teaching of persons with spe- cial needs, education and formation of value atti- tudes) and emphasising the acknowledgement of individual’s abilities and powers, is supplemented by the descdption oí the purpose of special educa- tion which is to help a person with special needs to develop, leam according to one’s abilities, obtain education and qualifications and to over- come the social divide. The education system that ensures the accessibility of education and equal

opportunities to all is the system is currently being developed.

The principles or accessibility and equality are the basis for inclusive education aimed at en- suring the quality and justice in education. Inclu- sion means equal conditions to all to take part in (self-) education activities and an assurance of high quality self-education to all society members, acknowledging and respecting diversity, with re- gard to everyone’s individual abilities and needs and avoiding any discrimination^. When imple- menting the ideas of inclusive education, educa- tional spaces are expanded into vadous contexts of the educational system (both formal and non- formal). This system aims to use all possible re- sources in the effective meeting of leamers’ needs^.

When changing the pdodties of educa- tion, the role of parents in their child’s education changes as well. Today, parents are school part-

‘ LR Svietimo [statymas (2011). Valstybés zinios, 2011-03- 31, Nr. 38-1804; Mokiniii, turinciii specialiiyn ugdymosi poreikin, grupin nustatymo ir jq specialii^jq ugdymosi porei- kiii skirstymo i lygius tvarkos aprasas (2011). Valstybés zin- ios, 2011 -07-21, Nr. 93-4428; etc.

^ UNESCO (2009). International Conference on Education 48th session, Geneva, Switzerland. 25-28 November 2008. “Inclusive Education: the Way of the Future”. Final Report. <http://www.ibe.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Policy_D ialogue/48th_ICE/ICE_FINAL_REPORT_eng.pdf>. ‘ Open File on Inclusive Education: Support materials for Managers and Administrators. UNESCO. <http://unes- doc.unesco.org/images/0012/001252/125237eo.pdf>.

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ners, active participants in the child’s education- related decision-making, choosing the model or form’* of education that meets the child’s needs best. After the restoration of independence Lithuania chose a multi-track education system when developing the educational system and searching for the best possibilities to effectively educate children with different abilities and needs. This suggested the use of different educational forms and institutions for their education (Aiduk- iené, Labiniené, 2003). It broadened the possibili- ties for parents raising children with SEN to choose their educational institution. Parents may choose the form of inclusive education when a child attends a mainstream school and learns to- gether with their peers. Additionally the effective- ness of his/her self-education is ensured through the provision of educational assistance in meeting individual needs. A second possibility is self- education in mainstream school’s in special classes. The third way is in a special school dedi- cated to the self-education of children with severe and profound SEN.

In many of the documents regulating edu- cation at international and national levels and in scientific research on special education, the active involvement and participation of parents is em- phasised. Involvement is understood as the con- stant interaction between school and parents and the process of reciprocal activity. This promotes the potential for individual and institutional changes. Inclusion means “involvement”, “par- ticipation”, “empowerment”, the acceptance of a person’s otherness and respect for difference. The involvement of education participation is based on the theory of empowerment. Empowerment is re- lated to the conception where individuals are as- sisted in their achievement of potential (Dettmer, Dyck, Thurston, 1996; Douglas, Zimmerman, 1995). Empowerment-oriented practice considers special practitioners in inclusive or special educa- tion to be partners with a pupil and his/her parents and not as authoritarian experts. The system of meeting the SEN of a pupil in our country is by law to empower parents to participate in the as- sessment of their child’s SEN. To this aim peda- gogues are obliged to collaborate with parents (foster parents), consult them on their child’s spe- cial requirements, inform them about the progress of the child’s self-education as well as difficulties and problems, and to prepare individual curricula

” LR svietimo tstatymas (2011).

for pupils with special needs with regard to the individual abilities of the pupil.

Legal regulation in meeting SEN and sta- tistical data on self-education of pupils with SEN, validate the right to accessible education for pu- pils of different abilities. Although there is formal (statistical) inclusion of pupils with SEN as a dominating form of their self-education; they do not reflect the quality of special educational ser- vices. Consequently, throughout the period of special education reform, intensive research has being undertaken in meeting pupils’ SEN, espe- cially in mainstream schools. This has attempted to reveal the facts, proving or rejecting, the advan- tages and disadvantages of inclusive and special education. For the pedagogical and scientific community, this research has explored the rele- vance of the quality of special pedagogical sup- port, the educational content and the process of restructuring for pupils with SEN.

Inclusive education with pupils with SEN is a complex and dynamic process. Even though in Lithuania the legal context is favourable both in the form of inclusive and special self-education research has shown that the reality of education encompasses some very controversial phenomena. For example a lack of recognition or identification of the values of collaboration between pupils and educators (school, family). Barriers have been shown to exist in partnership arrangements and there has been low participation. In some cases specialists, although striving to help their pupils, have held domination over them. However mainstream and special schools have accumulated rich and diverse experiences in pro- viding special pedagogical assistance.

The majority of scientific research into special education dealt with the issues of attitudes (of pupils, their parents, pedagogues and society) towards pupils with SEN. During the early years a great abundance of the investigations looked into attitudes towards children who have special needs and these continue today. Additionally we see the emergence of research into the quality of special pedagogical assistance. The findings of scholarly research emphasise that the meeting of SEN is predetermined by the quality of preparation, the ability of the whole academic community, to ap- ply recommendations of special educational tech- niques in the adaptation of content and method. Research estimates (Alisauskiené, et al., 2007) that traditional types of special pedagogical sup- port (work of a special pedagogue and speech

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therapist in a room, individual work with a child) remains dominant in schools. According to the authors, many severe drawbacks were notieed in educational institutions when identifying and meeting the mild special educational needs of pupils. Moderate, severe and profound special educational needs were identified more precisely and reliably.

The necessity for collaboration between parents and school has been discussed in research by Ambrukaitis, Ruskus (2002), Milteniené (2005) and other authors. Milteniené (2005) esti- mated that children with SEN and their parents were ostracised, from dialogue with the school, rarely communicated with, not provided with pos- sibilities to get involved and together solve the problems of their child’s (self-) education. Peda- gogues claim to emphasise positive aspects of a child’s education; however, parents think that pedagogues more often talk about leaming prob- lems and have poor regard for the family needs (the need for support, the most suitable ways of communication for a family). There should be more emphasis on how to help a child; through dialogue rather than the individual one-directional information that predominates. Based on the au- thor’s research data, specialists are poorly orien- tated towards inclusive education; in the education process they maintain the position of an expert, the child and other participants are insufficiently involved in the process of participatory education. The research highlighted the need to strengthen activities that are important for inclusive educa- tion. This includes specialists supporting families and partnership of participants in education. Simi- lar results have been obtained by research by Sapelyté, et al (2006). They found that pupils and their parents are little involved as partners in the process of assessment and education. This negates the desire to strive towards involvement, partner- ship and empowerment (Ruskus, 2003) which can be implemented only after regarding the expecta- tions and needs of all participants. Scientific stud- ies (Alisauskiené, et al., 2007; Milteniené, 2005) show that the quality of special pedagogical sup- port is assessed differently by different stake- holders. Headmasters and specialists of schools assessed the support more positively, whereas parents and teachers assessed it more critically.

Despite the changing policy of education, in reality educational problems still exist and through the legal basis of education the system needs to improve. This system must include the

involvement and participation of parents, through both seholarly discourse and by striving to im- prove the methods of self-education and speeial assistance for pupils with special needs. That is why in assessing the advantages and disadvan- tages of special and inclusive education, cognis- cience of parents’ opinions and analyses of the self-education experiences of parents and the child with special needs are important.

The theoretical background of the re- search consists of parents’ (foster parents’) atti- tudes towards social participation and involve- ment (Kemshall, Littlechild, 2000; Tumer, Beres- ford, 2005). Social participation (Douglas, Zim- merman, 1995; Ebersold, 2004) aims to promote an educational system based on equality between a person with SEN and educational support spe- cialists as well as for equal participation in mak- ing decisions related to the quality of education.

The essential problem questions of the re- search were: 1) Which forms of education best meet the expectations of pupils and parents? 2) Which fields of support are best developed? 3) How well is the social participation and psycho- emotional support of SEN pupils and their fami- lies assured? 4) What specific adaptations are needed for educational support in the class and at institutional levels?

The research object is to ascertain the parents’ point of view towards inclusive and spe- cial education.

The research aim is to assess the advan- tages and disadvantages of special and inclusive education in Lithuania and to ascertain the experi- ences of self-education of pupils with SEN on the basis of the parental survey results.

These are the following research objec- tives: • to reveal what forms of education meet

special education needs best, according to the parents’ point of view;

• to estimate which methods of educational support are best developed in the class and at institutional levels;

• to reveal the differing needs of social par- ticipation and psycho-emotional feelings of pupils and their families in the context of meeting SEN.

Characteristics of the research methods and sample. The research is based on the meth- odology of social research (points of view, expec- tations etc. of persons taking part in the educa-

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tional process). Quantitative and qualitative meth- ods for empirical research and data analysis have been applied: • questionnaire-based survey aiming to re-

veal ¡parents’ opinions on experiences of in- clusive and special education of pupils with SEN;

• methods of mathematical statistics (average and percentage fi-equencies, standard devia- tions, p criterion of significance);

• method of content analysis for processing answers to open questions on the question- naire.

The research instrument. A questionnaire was undertaken with parents raising a child (or children) with SEN. The questionnaire consists of 7 diagnostic blocks and 65 features. Major struc- tural parts of the questionnaire constituted: demo- graphic data on respondents (parents of pupils with SEN); data on educational institutions at- tended by and curricula for children with SEN; reasons for the child’s SEN; experiences in choos- ing and changing educational institutions; assess- ment of factors infiuencing the child’s education situation (positive and negative), special peda- gogical support in the educational institution; par- ents’ expectations towards their child’s education.

The respondents were parents of pupils with SEN. A convenient sample was chosen using the principles of anonymity, information on the respondents voluntarily participation in the re- search were followed. 232 parents raising school- age children with SEN and receiving special pedagogical support in educational institutions took: part in the survey. The research has been carried out in mainstream and special schools of various towns and counties of Lithuania (Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipeda, Siauliai, Panevézys).

Characterisation ofthe sample. The ma- jority of the respondents were women (84.1 %) with an average age of 42 years. The levels of education of the respondents were: higher – 25.6 %, high – 13.5 %’; secondary – 24.7 %, vo- cational – 18.4 %, unfinished secondary -11 .7%.

The majority of those who took part in the survey (79.3 %) were raising one child with SEN; the average age of their children was 13.2 years. The largest number of parents was of spe- cial school pupils (137 or 64.2 %). In the course of the survey, 85 pupils (37.3 %) in total attended general classes in mainstream schools (primary –

20, basic – 36, secondary – 23, gymnasium – 4), a special class in mainstream school – 11 (4.9 %), in special school – 149 (65.9%). More than half of the parents (58.6 %) stated that their children were attending institutions of a different type than they were attending in the course of the survey.

Many parents were raising children with mild SEN and they were leaming according to the mainstream school curricula (85 or 37%); 134 (58 %) pupils were leaming according to the cur- ricula that did not match the state standards for curricula (adapted, special or individual) (some parents did not answer the questions on schools and curricula). The special educational needs of a large number of the pupils have been predeter- mined by complex disorders (68 or 29.3 %); movement and position (47 or 20.3 %); sensory (34 or 14.7 %); general leaming disorders (27 or 11.6 %) or intellectual disorders (22 or 9.5 %); for the rest (36 or 16 %) – behavioural and emotional disorders, autism spectrum disorders, specific leaming disabilities; speech and language disor- ders.

Results of the empirical research on parental views towards inclusive and special education

Parents’ opinions on the most suitable methods of teaching. Parents were asked about their opinions on the best methods of education (mainstream education class, special class in comprehensive school, special school, education at home) and what would most effectively meet their children’s special educational needs. The results are illustrated in Figure 1.

Mainstream school would be the best

Special dace in mainstream school would

be the best

Special school would be the best

Ej Attends general class in mainstream school 37,3 %

^ Attends special class in mainstream school 4,9 %

53 Attends special school 65,9 %

‘ According to previously valid levels of education.

Fig. 1. Parents’ opinion on the most suitable form of (self-) education for their child (pupil with

SEN), %

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SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 2011 2 (25)

The survey shows that the majority of par- ents are satisfied with the type of education their child is receiving.

However, not all parents of pupils attend- ing either mainstream or special schools are satis- fied with the level of their child’s leaming: a small number of parents stated that another teach- ing style would be better. This is illustrated by parents’ answers to the open-type question {If you would like your child to attend another school, please indicate what school and why): • I would like my child to attend a main-

stream school; …that they would attend a gymnasium (3 parents of children with movement disorders).

• Mainstream school, if a special class were there, because then one would get more ex- perience (parents of 1 pupil of special school, with movement and posture disor- ders);

• / would like my child to learn at home (par- ents of a pupil of mainstream school gen- eral education class, with intellectual disor- der);

• / would like it if there were speaking chil- dren in class, it would be fun for the child and one would leam more (parents of a child with complex disorders, attending special class in mainstream school);

• / would like the child to attend special school (parents of 1 pupil attending main- stream school general education class, with intellectual disorder).

The opinions of parents on special classes are positive. According to them special classes create favourable conditions for the self-education of their children. However this form applies less to children than parents.

Cases of changing the form of teaching. The question ‘//as your child attended another institution than the present one, i. e. institution of another type or in a different way? was answered by 33 parents who took part in the survey. They stated the following: • 21 pupils were transferred from mainstream

school to special school; all parents of those pupils are satisfied with the currrent meth- ods of the child’s leaming; the majority of them (10) had complex disorders; move- ment and posture disorders (6); general leaming disorders (due to limited intellect)

were attributed to 3; language and commu- nication disorders – 2 pupils.

• 1 pupil was transferred from special school to mainstream school (parents are satisfied with the present form of teaching).

• For 2 pupils, leaming at home was changed to leaming in a mainstream school.

• 9 pupils have not changed their method of leiiming; among them: 6 pupils were attend- ing special school (2 pupils with hearing impairments, 1 child with intellectual, vis- ual, complex disorders in each category and the autism syndrome). Parents of these pu- pils are satisfied with the method of their child’s leaming. Parents of two pupils that did not change their schools stated tliat an- other form of teaching would be better for their children: parents of a pupil with movement, posture disorders and hearing impairments would like their child to attend special class in mainstream school; and par- ents of a pupil with emotional and behav- ioural disorders would not like to change the present-day situation (special school) of teaching.

Responses of parents as to what kind of curriculum has been applied to the education of their children in the previous school were as fol- lows: mainstream school curriculum – 11 out of 21; adjusted (modified, adapted) curriculum – 7; either a special or an individual curriculum has been previously applied for one pupil each.

A higher number of pupils who were transferred from mainstream schools to special schools show unsuccessful integration of such pupils. It is likely that schools had to be changed because of the inability to leam according to the mainstream school curricula. However, it remains unclear if/why there were no attempts to make curricula content easier for these pupils in previ- ous schools? It might be that parents’ answers about the children’s curricula are inexact. Perhaps some of the parents did not deeply consider the teaching method according to what their child was leaming in comprehensive school. On the other hand, even though few, there are such cases of integration (transition from special school to mainstream school).

Reasons for changing school. When analysing parents’ explanations about the reasons why their children had to change school, the con- tent analysis method helped to single out five

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groups of reasons for changing school. General- ised data about this part is illustrated in Figure 2.

Child’s health disorders

Child’s leaming problems r^

1= x:

More favourable present-day educational environment c”T:rzrr

Recommendations of specialists, other persons K:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::S:::::!O!

Communication problems ^?l>xM

Other reasons for changing school

12

10 12 14

Fig. 2 Reasons for changing school (amount of answers, lexical-semantic units)

Usually, the parents related the reasons for changing school with their child’s special (self-) educational needs {child’s learning prob- lems and a more favourable present-day educa- tional environment); basically, communication problems are also related to the solution of self- educational problems by changing the school type. The school is changed when there is a need

for a more favourable communication environ- ment for the child.

Child’s learning problems (N=13 – amount of lexical-semantic units). When explain- ing why they had to change school, parents usu- ally said that their child found it too difficult to leam there, (see Table 1).

Table 1

Category The reason for changing school – child’s learning problems

It was too diñicult to leam

One was unable to master the mainstream curriculum

Slower pace of leaming

Teaching was not satisfying

Because it was dijficult to leam: The child had some learning problems, one was hoping that it would be easier to leam in another school. Leaming at school was unsuccessful, one learned neither to read nor write or calculate, that is why we changed for a special school: When the subject- based system appeared, it became difficult for the child to learn, one started not understanding the subjects taught At school, one did not manage to carry out common tasks with the class pace: we did not manage to maintain the pace of other pupils. Because that school was not suitable for him, and we knew nothing about the present school.

Total:

7

3

2

1

13

The answers are quite abstract. Perhaps some of the parents did not deeply consider the reasons for their children’s difficulty in leaming;

the parents named their children’s leaming prob- lems the way they understood them.

Child’s health and other disorders (N= 12; see Table 2).

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SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 2011 2 (25)

Table 2

Category The reason for changing school – child’s health disorders

-,ife . . ;1 -‘iSuS^ategories „,•’; ., t«-;

Physical disabilities

Health disorders

Leaming problems and physical disability

?’Vf”l% .?’-,*”! ‘….I^^^ExampIe^of^aiKwers , ! …due to spine problems; .. .due to the misshapen spine; .. .due to scoliosis; …physical disability etc. Due to epilepsy; due to health problems; due to weakened health; due to health disorder …movement or writing disorders or physical disability

Total:

‘ Amoun’tg

6

5

1 12

The need for a more favourable educa- tional environment (N = 11; see Table 3).

Table 3

Category The reason for changing school-the need for a more favourable educational environment

Friendly microclimate

Individual support for a pupil Complementary ser- vices Meeting of the child’s needs

Here at school, children are friendly; one thinks that is was worth changing the child’s school because of the positive atmosphere in class and school; because here are few pupils in class. Because of adapted curricula; The teacher can individually explain the lesson to every child; Better care of the child… More specialists work with the child (in the other institution, there was only one teacher); because of complementary procedures. Present-day school meets child’s needs more; I think conditions for the child are more favourable here (no details).

Total:

3

3

2

3

11

Parents expressed positive opinions about the child’s present school. Some parents posi- tively assessed the present form of their child’s self-education as being due to a friendly school or class microclimate; due to receiving individual support; due to complementary services and due to meeting their child’s needs.

The following statements indirectly evi- dence parents’ dissatisfaction with the child’s previous school; reasons for changing school are indirectly related to a lack in satisfying their child’s special self-educational needs: 1. Recommendations of specialists, other

persons (N = 5). Such reasons were indi- cated only by few parents. According to them, doctors, school special educational board (presently child’s welfare board) or pedagogical psychological service special- ists recommended a change in the child’s school. There were few such answers; per- haps parents see other reasons for changing school, and recommendations from special-

. ists are rather the outcome of other reasons and not the direct reason for changing school.

2. Child’s communication problems (N = 4): bullying by children; rejection by teachers and children; dissatisfaction with a teacher. Several parents mentioned that their child experienced communication problems (bul- lying by other children, rejection by other children and teachers – It was difficult for the child due to the attitude of other chil- dren and teachers, they experienced both bullying by other children and misunder- standing from teachers) in a previous school; one answer shows a respondent’s dissatisfaction with the child’s previous teacher; however, the answer was not de- tailed and the reasons remain unclear (poor teaching quality, poor assistance, commu- nication problems with a teacher?).

Few of the respondents’ answers to this category allow for any conclusions to be drawn. Communication problems may be the reasons for changing school, even though communication problems exist, single children experience bully- ing as well. Authors of a number of research stud- ies describe the issue of bullying at school. Alisauskas, Jomantaité (2008) estimated that one

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fifth of SEN pupils felt rejected, isolated and “dif- ferent” due to experiencing bullying by peers, abuse, even violence in their classes; this was also mentioned by their parents. According to the data by Robichaud (2007), Smith (2005) and others, pupils with SEN, who are sensitive, display little independence, are fearful, and who attend main- stream schools sometimes experience communica- tion problems. Smith (2005) maintains that pupils’ communication problems can be provoked by both “different” behaviour, appearance and having no friend who would defend them.

Assistance for a child. One area of in- vestigation was how parents assessed assistance being provided at school, the provision of com- pensatory technology for leaming, parents’ in- volvement in the educational process and the sat- isfaction of children’s self-education needs.

Dominant responses show the direct leaming support for children. A majority of par- ents surveyed state that the support of a special pedagogue is provided to the children (M = 2.65), they are individually supported by teachers during lessons (M = 2.62). More seldom, parents men- tioned support of a speech therapist (M = 2.065), teacher’s assistance (M = 2.03), support of peers (M = 2.03), and some individual support of a teacher after lessons (M = 1.93). Some pupils re- ceive support by psychologists (M = 1.33), social pedagogues (M = 1.79), and services of other spe- cialists (M = 1.68). However, parents’ responses were distributed unevenly (SD – from 0.64 to 0.97); this means there is a great diversity in chil- dren’s self-education, unequal conditions for leaming and special support provided in different schools.

According to the survey data, parents are very rarely invited to work as volunteers, to help during lessons in their free time (M = 1.34); rarely do schools install parents’ support groups (M = 1.60), and even fewer parents get involved in voluntary activities (M= 1.1). Regarding this issue, parents’ opinions and experiences also highly diner (SD – from 0.39 to 0.85). However, a positive achievement in the organisation of teaching lies in the fact that some parents feel they are being equal participants at school when solv- ing issues of the organisation of pupil’s teaching; e. g. the respondents stated that parents were in- volved in discussions on the purposes of a child’s self-education (M = 2.48).

The standard deviation of almost all the means of answers is quite high, and this could be due to the differences in respondents’ opinions. However, it is important to note that different re- sults could be predetennined by the situation that not all schools provide specialist support. It may not be feasible to provide for each childs individ- ual needs in every school. This is proved by par- ents’ responses to the open-type question what other specialists offer support for a child? The majority answered the question stafing that a kin- estherapist provides support for a child with movement and posture disorders (15 answers), a masseur (10 answers); a teacher of individual re- medial exercises (4 answers); parents of children with visual impairments stated that a typhlo- pedagogue provided support, for children with hearing impairments – a surdo-pedagogue; more- over, some children receive support by a hydro- therapy specialist, paediatrician, nurse (several parents’ answers on each).

According to data by Alisauskiené, et al. (2007), due to a lack of specialists in many educa- tional institutions, special pedagogical support is provided only to some SEN children (in counties, from 11 to 28 %; in districts, from 5 to 50 %). The authors maintain that in the majority of schools, support from a special pedagogue is not provided at all either to children or their parents.

Assessment of the need for assistance. Parents quite unanimously state that the assistance of a special pedagogue received by a child (M = 2.68; SD = 0.66, p = 0.9) meets pupils’ needs, i. e. differences between support provided and needed support are statistically insignificant.

However, in all other cases, there are gaps between the support provided and that which is needed.

Parents would like more (than their child receives) of a teacher’s individual support during the lesson (M = 2.79; p = 0.006), after lessons (M = 2.42), they would like more support from a psychologist (M = 2.03); support of a social peda- gogue (M = 2.06); support of peers (M = 2.27); and the instalment of a parents’ support group (M = 2.02) etc. The statistical significance be- tween the provided support and the need for sup- port p = 0.000.

The difference between support provided to a child and the need for support is illustrated in Figure 3.

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vi si

on o

f co

m pe

ns at

or y

te ch

no lo

gy

S up

po rt

of a

te ac

he r’s

as si

st an

ce

G ro

up s

of pa

re nt

s’ su

pp or

t

Fig. 3 Differences between the provided support and the need for support (M)

It was estimated that in almost all fields the need for support was higher that that received; the difference between services provided to a child and the need for them was statistically sig- nificant (p < 0.05), except for parents’ responses on the need for the support fi-om a special peda- gogue.

According to the parents, the need for support fi”om a special pedagogue (M = 2.65) meets the support provided (M = 2.68). Similar data was introduced by authors of other research. The data of Alisauskiené, et al. (2007) proves that the activities of special pedagogues and speech therapists (identification of child’s SEN; direct support for a pupil in the self-education process) are assessed as being the best. The level of provi- sion of psychological support is especially low: in many educational institutions, psychological sup- port is not provided at all, and in those counties and districts where psychologists work, support is provided only to a small number of pupils.

A comparison was made between the pro- vision of, and the need for, support by a special pedagogue. This was assessed by parents of pupils who attended both mainstream and special

schools. It was estimated that the need for support from a special pedagogue was highly relevant to pupils in mainstream schools – 83.1 % of parents stated that such support was needed by their child.

The peirents’ survey data reported that there are several ways in which the provision of support for children in schools could be improved, e.g. the involvement of parents in the educational process on a voluntary basis, the organisation of peer support for a pupil, the support of a teacher’s assistant etc. The research revealed that parental voluntary support in the educational process was not used as much as it could be, i.e. many parents noted that they should be invited more often, in their free time, to help their child in class.

Parents’ wishes on additional support for their child. Parents’ responses to the open- type question What kind of support would you wish for your child? show that in their opinion many aspects of their child’s special needs are still not being satisfied. After carrying out content analysis, 4 categories of answers were revealed.

Needs for additional support of specialists (N = 20; see Table 4).

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SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 20112 (25)

Table 4

Category Needs for additional support of specialists

Sub-categoHes

Support of a psychologist

Individual support of teachers

Support of other specialists Support of a social peda- gogue Support of a special peda- gogue

Examples of answers / think, the assistance of a psychologist would be needed; to consult psychologists and the like. Additional work with a teacher in some more difficult subjects; I would like teachers to ojfer more help in doing homework; that teachers would pay more attention to leaming and would help to improve skills; I would like more assistance in preparing for English lessons because I do not know it myself and cannot help. …specialists (no details); support of doctors There is no social pedagogue in school because the school is small, however, one would be needed very much.

…a special pedagogue arrives twice a week only, that is too little.

Total:

Ajnount

9

7

2

1

1

20

Support from a psychologist would be the most relevant assistance for children; however, parents did not detail this need. According to par- ents, the need for more individualised teacher support is not of less relevance. Least of all, par-

ents lack the support of a special pedagogue and social pedagogue.

The demand for additional services for a child and family (N = 9). Responses in this section were very diverse and cover supportive services for the child and the family (see Table 5).

Table 5

Category The demand for additional services for a child and family

Sub-categories The need for Wellness The provision of compensa- tory aids

Social services in the educa- tional institution for parents and child

Demands for complementary educational services

Examples Df«answers Help from health procedures; Sanatoria; Back massages are needed. Hearing-aid; I suppose that at the special education centre compensatory technologies appropriate to the child should be available The centre should operate all year round; [parents] will not get so many holidays, especially during the 2 summer months; I would like the school to operate in the sum- mer because I only have one months holiday from work …tran.sport should be provided to and from the school. …that the school would develop SEN child’s communication with the mainstream school pupils skills; …that the children without disabilities would learn to communi- cate and understand such children; I would prefer that people communicated more with my children, worked with them; …that they would not only give concerts with disabled children; …that they would be taught more about how to take care of them- selves; …that they would become more integrated into society; I would lik ethe chil- dren to start attending a club (in primary forms one has been attending a dance club) according to their abilities; drawing, music, handicraft classes; Help from a teacher’s assistant.

Total:

Amount 3

2

3

9

20

There is the need for working towards Wellness for a child, the provision of compensa- tory skills necessary for self-education; social services for a child; social services fi-om an educa- tional institution for parents, i. e. care of their child during the summer and all year round.

Some parental responses showed their concem about their child’s social education that is necessary for successful integration into society. Parents would like their children to have possibili-

ties to meet their needs for (self-)development in social abilities, especially that they would leam to communicate with their contemporaries. On the other hand, they wish that other pupils and teach- ers would show empathy in communicating with their child. Moreover, parents worry about the development of their child’s independence, com- plementary (non-formal) education and after- school occupation.

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SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 2011 2 (25)

Provided assistance is sufficient (N = 19); this was stated by the majodty of parents (see Table 6).

Table 6

Category Provided assistance is sufficient

.”..’ • i Súb-cate”g(5ries ^

A child is provided with all needed support

Nothing is needed additionally Additional needs are not per- ceived

‘M.’\’.i. ,*.-> – ‘ ÎExampl.esïôifsWnss’eris We receive everything we need at our school: All the services that are needed for our

family are provided at school: All support is provided by pedagogues and other spe- cialists in the special education centre: This centre encompasses all the support needed for my child: We are glad about everything. Nothing is needed.

I do not know

Total:

12

5

2

19

To sum up, the greater number of parents expressed the need for more intensive educational support for a child and for complementary ser- vices for the child and family.

Assessment of positive and negative educational factors. After drawing generali- sations from parents’ points of view towards vari- ous factors (assistance and support of teachers and administration, child’s feelings, relations with contemporaries) that determine the quality of their child’s self-education, it is obvious that, in gen- eral, the majodty of parents are satisfied with the situation of their children’s self-education. In communication between their child with SEN with peers, the possibility to know the real world, socialise, take part in events, the attention of school heads and teachers towards their child and family are assessed positively. The parents sup- pose that their child is educated with regard to their individual needs; that they feel safe at school; that one gains as much knowledge as they are able to. This is proved by the means of an- swers to the survey questions (M from 1.66 to 1.99 in the scale from 1 to 2). Parents’ opinions on the stated aspects are positive (SD – from 0.29 to 0.37), however, the answers to the questions on the formation of work skills, vocational guidance (M = 1.66) and vocational training (M = 1.61) are quite contradictory (SD – 0.49). The opinions of parents whose children are educated according to different forms are vaded. As parents state, work skills are better formed in special schools (73.2 % support this) than in mainstream schools (50 % support this). The training for a profession is also better assessed in special school (67.1 % posi- tively assess it) than in mainstream school (55.8 % assess it positively).

The other field of education raising more doubts among parents is pupil’s participation in after-school activities: this field is assessed aver- agely (M = 1.54; SD = 0.50). After-school educa- tion has been positively assessed by more parents of pupils attending special schools (59.9 %) than mainstream schools (39 %).

An analysis ascertained the difference in all the mentioned aspects among opinions of par- ents whose children were educated in different types of schools. It was estimated that in the ma- jodty of questions the opinions coincided: both sides positively assessed the situation as to how the community accepted their child, the possibili- ties for participation in events, their child’s fdend- ship with peers, the possibility to communicate with other children, to know real life, the match- ing of education with their child’s needs {a child gains as much knowledge as one is able to). How- ever, almost half (48.8 %) of parents whose chil- dren were attending mainstream school supposed that their child could do more if the teacher helped him/her. This thought is shared by only 13.6 % of parents of special school pupils.

In general, parents of special school pu- pils are more satisfied with the educational ex- pedence of their child than those parents of main- stream school pupils (see Table 7). According to parents, in special schools, their children are less bullied by other children; children feel they are equal; safer; they suffer less from their learning difficulties; parents receive fewer complaints about their child’s differences; fewer parents no- tice a lack of information about their child’s edu- cation or suggestions about how to help their child at home.

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SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 2011 2 (25)

Table 7

Differences of parents’ opinions on education in mainstream and special schools, Vo

Statements

Other children bully my child

My child feels equal to others

A child feels safe A child feels bad when he/she is leaming in a different way from others A child could do more but teachers help too little

I have to listen to complaints about my child’s difficulties

I am glad about my child’s education

There is lack of information on my child’s education

There are lack of suggestions on how to help my child at home

Mainstr. school 38.2

66.0

70.0

49.0

48.8

50.9

57.8

45.5

49.2

Spee. classes*

37.5

77.8

90.0

11.1

10.0

18.2

90.9

9.1

9.1

Spee. school

8.1

96.2

95.7

16.0

13.6

15.8

90.7

8.8

13.2

* Only 11 parents took part in the research; that is why the research data has not been interpreted.

On the other hand, differences among par- ents’ opinions and among those whose children attend mainstream schools, become obvious. E. g. some 40 % of parents state that in mainstream school, other children bully my child, and at the same time 70 % of parents state that the child feels safe; My child feels as equal (noted by 66% of parents), and also it stated that the child feels bad when they are learning in a different way than others (stated by 49 % of parents); / must listen to complaints about child’s difficulties (stated by 50 % of parents), and also it is stated that / am satisfied with my child’s education (expressed by almost 58 % of parents). This shows that parents perhaps really feel in differently; perhaps at school their children with SEN experience every- thing – both communication probletns related to intolerance from other children (or even teachers) and some good things; parents are satisfied with their child’s education and also would like to re- ceive more support for their child, that one’s teaching would not differ from other pupils’. The question arises if it is possible to match all this.

One way or another, such contradiction of parents’ opinions most probably evidences insuf- ficient relationships between school and parents. Perhaps they would need to talk more to teachers, special pedagogues and their child’s contemporar- ies about their child’s leaming, one’s feelings at school and to discuss together other subjects re- lated to the child’s and parents’ emotions. Parents, and especially children, should not hear com- plaints about their child’s “difference”: this does not make a child better, but rather the tension be- tween a child, parents and teachers and specialists causes parents’ to be unwilling or even fear visit-

ing the school. After losing contact with the school, they lack information about the child’s leaming environment and begin to fear such con- tact. They develop disfavour for the school, teach- ers and other specialists, even their child’s con- temporaries.

Responses ft-om parents whose children attend special schools are more consistent and no severe contradictions are noticed. Even though the problem of the relationship between parents and school exists, parents’ opinions about the special school is favourable.

Conclusions and discussion

1. Basically parents are satisfied that their child’s special educational needs are being met (the majority of the respondents sup- port the present-day methods of teaching their child, independently from the form of their child’s education). When choosing (changing) the type of education, parents’ decision is impacted upon by the essential factor – the institution where their child’s needs will be best met and a high quality of education will be provided.

2. Independently from the type of education provided parents assess the direct peda- gogical support provided by a teacher and (or) a special pedagogue in class best. They also expressed a higher demand for indi- vidual pedagogical support both during les- sons and after school.

3. From the parents’ point of view, the fields of support that are insufficiently developed in schools are those related to the educa-

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SPECIALUSIS UGDYMAS 2011 2 (25)

fional Support at an institutional level. There is lack of intensive support from a psychologist, social pedagogue or better provision of compensatory technology.

4. Schools do not always use available human resources and this is evidenced by a low as- sessment of such fields of activities as vol- untary support of parents during lessons and support from contemporaries.

5. There are differences arnong parent’s opin- ions of the factors of the educational envi- ronment and the quality in meeting the needs in different schools. • Parents of special school pupils assess

the meeting of the needs of their child’s leaming as better in all the as- pects. This includes communication with teachers and peers, possibilities for parents’ communication with teachers and family counselling. This shows that special schools are more adept at using available and abundant resources (through adjusting envi- ronments, use of specialists, individu- alising the curriculum.

• Parents of mainstream school pupils emphasise the need for specialists (speech therapist, social pedagogue, psychologist) to offer more support and to corrununicate with school (more frequent discussion of educa- tional purposes, schools inviting par- ents to help their child in class on a voluntary basis), to offer counselling on the issues of their child’s educa- tion more than those of special school pupils’ parents. Higher expectations for pedagogical support in class are expressed.

6. Aecording to the parents’ opinion, in speeial schools pupils are less bullied by other chil- dren, a child feels they are equal, they feel safer, fewer suffer from leaming in a differ- ent way than others, parents hear fewer complaints about their child’s difficulties etc. Parents of special school pupils better assess the satisfaetion of their child’s leam- ing, their communication with teachers and contemporaries and greater possibilities for parents’ to communicate with teachers.

Summing up the results of the parents’ survey, it may be concluded that parents are basi-

cally satisfied with the types of self-education that the child presently attends and are quite unani- mously of a positive opinion on almost all the aspects of (self-) education. The exceptions to this are the formation of work skills and vocational guidance and training. These latter elements are in need of greater input and received a poor assess- ment contradictory to the satisfaction levels in other fields. However, slightly more than half the parents stated that their children had to change schools in order to receive appropriate teaching. The most frequent reasons for changing school were: due to the child’s leaming problems; their health condition; the expectations of parents and that the educational environment was more con- ducive to leaming in another school. The most dominant reason for changing school was in order to ensure their child’s self-education problems were more appropriately dealt with. According to parental opinions because special schools have more material and human resources they are better prepared to accept children with SEN. They are more able to meet their needs and to encourage and support the social participadon of pupils and their families.

In all fields, the difference between ser- vices provided for the child and the demand for them was obvious (the difference is statistically significant; p < 0.05). The exception only covers the support of a special pedagogue whose demand almost meets the supply. The support from a spe- cial pedagogue is assessed as especially needed for children attending both mainstream and spe- cial schools.

The parental survey assessed the demand for support from a psychologist as very high but this was not provided.

The research revealed that the voluntary resource of parental support within the school and classroom was not fully used.

The majority of parents assessed the sup- port provided as sufficient and only a few parents wanted addifional services for their child and fam- ily.

Summing parental opinions about differ- ent types of educational provision, it can be stated that the majority of parents are satisfied with the type of educational provision that their children receive. Parents unanimously maintained that their child was educated with regard to their individual needs; they felt safe in school and were able to leam according to their abilities.

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There was contradictory evidence relating to the formation of work skills, vocational guid- ance and training. These were assessed as quite low and contradictory. The opinions of parents varied according to the type of schools their chil- dren were educated in. The special schools proved better than mainstream schools in the areas of , after-school education, the formation of work skills and professional. Parents raised problems in the mainstream school with; communication prob- lems related to intolerance by other children (or even pedagogues) towards them, a lack of contact with pedagogues, poor information on their child’s education, and a lack of recommendations on how to help child at home. They required more involvement of parents, and that their child’s con- temporaries should be involved in the self- education of a pupil with special needs in their class. Parents of special school pupils assess the satisfaction of their child’s leaming to be better in all aspects, such as communication with teachers and contemporaries needs as well as pedagogues’ communication with parents.

Research by many other authors and the data of this research shows that parents should be encouraged to become more actively involved in their child’s educational environment, to commu- nicate more not only with teachers and other spe- cialists but also with the child’s peers. The envi- ronment for the child would be enhanced greatly through closer communication between parents and the child’s teachers, and with their peers. These changes would help a child with SEN to feel more confident in a mainstream school. How- ever, these research results, emphasise that there is insufficient parental satisfaction with some ar- eas of support and education when compared with other countries.. A review of research carried out in Holland (Boer, Pijl, Minnaert, 2010) shows that the majority of parents of pupils with SEN who attend mainstream schools have a neutral view or think that it is not a good choice for their child. Also, it has been revealed that parents are quite sceptical towards inclusive education for children with behavioural or intellectual disorders. How- ever, it was noticed that parents whose education and social economic status were higher assessed inclusive education more positively than those with lower education and social economic status.

The research results suggest that it would be reasonable to involve parents more actively and to more clearly regulate their involvement with the educational environment. Support could

be provided with the development of communica- tion skills not only with teachers and other spe- cialists but also with their child’s peers. Closer communication between parents and their child’s teachers and peers would help a child with SEN to feel better in the mainstream school.

Implementation of constructivist meth- ods and models dedicated to improvement of the situation of parents’ involvement and collabora- tion in practice. This may be through particular methods and models of collaboration with parents: the application of refiexive expertise, experiences, negotiation, mediation, educational leadership, coordination, animation of leisure and mediation for example. The use of these models and meth- ods would increase the possibilities for parental involvement and social participation. This could be achieved through the assistance of scientists of institutions of higher education, through cooperat- ing with other Lithuanian or other EU countries educational institutions in solving similar dilem- mas, through project activities, by methodical collaboration and via counselling networks.

The critical attitude of parents towards some ofthe aspects of children’s (self-) education makes us think not only about the possibilities for parental involvement but also about equality in education. This should be an incentive to spur special and mainstream schools to identify the necessary resources. The lead from special schools in orienting towards the role and fiinctions of resource centres may act as a catalyst in provid- ing favourable conditions for mainstream schools to provide educational support of a higher quality for pupils with SEN.

References

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Received 2011 01 12

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