Participation in an inclusive classroom: classroom members' perspectives of the school participation of a student with significant disabilities (2018)
In British Columbia, students with significant disabilities are included in general education classes with their peers. True inclusion goes beyond having a physical presence in the classroom and involves meaningful participation in both the social and academic life of the classroom (Katz, 2012). Meaningful participation consists of three inter-related components: active engagement in a task, the perception of participating, and the context in which it occurs (Eriksson & Granlund, 2004). Participation supports the healthy development and well-being of a child (Law, 2002), yet many students with significant disabilities are not receiving the necessary supports to fully participate at school (Kurth, Morningstar, & Kozleski, 2014; Sokal & Katz, 2015).The current study used a qualitative case study design to explore how a student with significant disabilities participates in an inclusive classroom. More specifically, the study focused on factors that influenced participation, using the Canadian Model of Occupational Performance and Engagement (CMOP-E) as a theoretical framework. CMOP-E suggests that interactions between factors relating to the person, the environment, and the activity influence a person’s participation in daily activities (Polatajko, Townsend, & Craik, 2007). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with the classroom teacher, education assistant (EA), five students in the class, and from direct observations of the student participating in daily classroom activities and analyzed using thematic analysis.Results of this study suggest key factors that influence participation in an inclusive classroom of a student with significant disabilities include: (a) student’s ability to communicate; (b) classroom culture that respects diversity, fosters a sense of belonging and safety, and values personal and social responsibility; (c) access to adapted materials and Assistive Technology (AT); (d) elements of Universal Design for Learning (UDL); (e) interactive learning; (f) weaving individualized learning outcomes into classroom activities and routines. Additional findings suggest that interactions of personal factors of all the members of the class influence participation; thus, personal factors of the classroom teacher, EA, and peers must also be considered. Furthermore, these social interactions contribute to the social environment in the classroom, indicating personal factors must always be considered in the context of the social environment.